The Doctor of Physical Therapy (D.P.T.) is the entry-level professional degree for physical therapists. Based on the number of outstanding applicants, approximately 45 students are annually enrolled in the D.P.T. program.

Technical Standards

Physical therapy is a profession that requires physical, mental, and emotional fitness. In the program, students obtain the foundation of knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviors that are necessary for a successful career as a physical therapist. Technical standards reflect the abilities that a physical therapist must possess for safe and effective clinical practice. Prospective and current students must meet the following technical standards.

General Abilities

Students are expected to possess the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze, and synthesize data. They must have functional use of the senses of vision, hearing, and smell, as well as unimpaired equilibrium. Their exteroceptive senses (touch, movement, stereognosis, and vibratory) must be sufficiently intact to perform activities required for a complete physical therapy education. Students must have motor function capabilities, physical endurance, and the emotional health to meet the demands of entry-level physical therapy education and the demands of total patient care, which may include extended hours of instruction and time in clinic (evenings, nights, and weekends). Students must be capable of punctual, consistent, and reliable attendance in the didactic and clinical education component of the curriculum.


The ability to observe is required for demonstrations, visual presentations in lectures, and laboratories. Observation requires the functional use of vision, hearing, smell, somatic sensations, and the use of common sense. Students must be able to observe patients accurately and completely, both at a distance and up close, attending to both verbal and nonverbal communication.


Students must be able to speak and listen to patients in order to elicit information, perceive nonverbal communication, describe changes in mood, communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and their families, as well as instruct patients and their families. Communication in oral, written, and electronic form with the health care team must be effective, efficient, and timely.

Motor/Psychomotor Function

Students are required to have sufficient motor function to ascertain information from patients by auscultation, percussion, palpation, and movement facilitation. Intervention methods may include exercising, lifting, transferring of patients, and assisting during ambulation. These methods must be completed in a manner that assures the safety of a patient as well as the safety of the student. Students must have motor function sufficient to perform the movements required to provide both nonurgent and emergent treatment. Such skills require coordination of gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, sensation, and muscle strength.

Intellectual—Conceptual, Integrative, and Qualitative Abilities

Problem solving is a critical skill demanded of physical therapists, and requires conceptual, integrative, and qualitative thinking abilities. Students must be able to synthesize knowledge and integrate the relevant aspects of a patient's history, laboratory results, and physical examination to provide an explanation for intervention by recalling and retaining information in an efficient and timely manner. They must have the ability to incorporate new information from peers, teachers, and research to formulate intervention plans. Students must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships, the spatial and functional relationships of structures, and analyze and apply this information for problem-solving and decision-making purposes. They must be able to organize, prioritize, analyze, and evaluate detailed and complex information individually, in small groups, and in clinical settings, and do so within a limited time frame.

Behavioral/Interpersonal Skills/Professionalism

It is necessary that students have the emotional health to maximize their intellectual ability, exercise good judgment, and complete all responsibilities required for the evaluation and treatment of patients. They must be able to self-assess, accept criticism, and assume responsibility for maintaining professional behavior. Students must be able to develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, families, caregivers, and colleagues. They must be able to tolerate physical and emotional stress and continue to function effectively. Students must possess qualities of adaptability and flexibility and be able to function in an atmosphere of uncertainty. They must be motivated to serve and demonstrate a high level of compassion for others. Students are required to demonstrate integrity and act in a manner that demonstrates consciousness of the profession's core values. They must possess sufficient interpersonal skills to interact positively with people from all levels of society, ethnic backgrounds, and belief systems.

Learning Outcomes

Graduates will be prepared to:

  • examine, evaluate, treat, and prevent impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities;
  • maintain and promote fitness, health, and quality of life; and
  • ensure availability, accessibility, and excellence in the delivery of physical therapy services to patients/clients.

As essential participants in the health care delivery system, graduates will be:

  • prepared to assume leadership roles in prevention and health maintenance programs, in the provision of rehabilitation services, and in professional and community organizations; and
  • able to play important roles in developing health policy and appropriate standards as well as assessing clinical outcomes for the various elements of physical therapy practice.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy requires a minimum of 104 s.h. and is completed in two and a half years. Students must maintain a program g.p.a. of at least 3.00.

The program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Satisfactory completion of the professional program qualifies candidates to take the National Physical Therapy Exam for licensure to practice. The minimum passing score on the exam is the same in all jurisdictions.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy degree requires the following coursework.

First Year, Summer

PTRS:5101Introduction to Physical Therapy Practice2
PTRS:5102Principles of Physical Therapy I2
PTRS:5205Health Promotion and Wellness3

First Year, Fall

PTRS:5100Professional Issues and Ethics1
PTRS:5103Principles of Physical Therapy II2
PTRS:5144Interprofessional Education I: Team-Based Approach to Health Care1
PTRS:5209Surface Anatomy1
PTRS:5210Kinesiology and Pathomechanics4
PTRS:5212Human Pathology for the Physical Therapist3
PTRS:5235Case-Based Learning I1
PTRS:5790Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy I1
ACB:5108Human Anatomy5

First Year, Spring

PTRS:5131Therapeutic Physical Agents2
PTRS:5201Musculoskeletal Therapeutics I3
PTRS:5206Cardiopulmonary Therapeutics3
PTRS:5215Applied Clinical Medicine2
PTRS:5236Case-Based Learning II1
PTRS:5791Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy II1
PTRS:6253Functional Neuroanatomy4

Second Year, Summer

PTRS:6120Physical Therapy Management and Administration I2
PTRS:6143Selected Topics in Physical Therapy Practice2
PTRS:6176Pharmacology for Physical Therapists3
PTRS:6793Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy III3

Second Year, Fall

PTRS:6122Psychosocial Aspects of Patient Care1
PTRS:6134Physical Therapy Management of Integumentary System2
PTRS:6145Interprofessional Education II: Teaching Neural and Musculoskeletal Evaluation Principles1
PTRS:6170Management of People with Prosthetic and Orthotic Needs2
PTRS:6200Pediatric Physical Therapy2
PTRS:6202Musculoskeletal Therapeutics II3
PTRS:6224Activity-Based Neural and Musculoskeletal Plasticity in Health Care4
PTRS:6237Community Outreach and Engagement I1
PTRS:6250Critical Inquiry I: Evidence-Based Practice2
One of these (with advisor approval):1
Critical Thinking in Neuro-Mechanical Systems
Critical Thinking in Pain
Critical Thinking in Biomechanics and Human Performance Assessment
Critical Thinking in Activity-Based Plasticity
Critical Thinking in Neural Plasticity
Critical Thinking in Movement Science
Critical Thinking in Cardiovascular Physiology

Second Year, Spring

PTRS:6121Physical Therapy Management and Administration II1
PTRS:6133Pain Mechanisms and Treatment2
PTRS:6172Radiology/Imaging for Physical Therapists2
PTRS:6173Differential Diagnosis in Physical Therapy2
PTRS:6203Musculoskeletal Therapeutics III4
PTRS:6204Progressive Functional Exercise2
PTRS:6225Neuromuscular Therapeutics3
PTRS:6238Community Outreach and Engagement II1
PTRS:6251Critical Inquiry II: Rehabilitation Research2
PTRS:6792Integrated Clinical Education in Physical Therapy IV1

Third Year, Summer

PTRS:6794Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy I4

Third Year, Fall

PTRS:6252Critical Inquiry III: Clinical Application1
PTRS:6795Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy II4
PTRS:6796Terminal Clinical Education in Physical Therapy III4

Applicants must meet the admission requirements of the Graduate College; see the Manual of Rules and Regulations on the Graduate College website. They must have completed a baccalaureate degree and all prerequisite coursework from an accredited institution in the United States, or anticipate completing the degree before enrolling in the D.P.T. program. They must have a cumulative g.p.a. of at least 3.00 and must have completed the following prerequisite coursework, preferably with a g.p.a. of at least 3.00.

All applicants must take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test. They must take the test early enough for their scores to be received prior to the application deadline.

Prerequisite Science Courses

All science courses must include the appropriate laboratory instruction. The prerequisite courses must have been taken for a letter grade. Credit awarded through advanced placement testing may be applied only to the mathematics requirement.

Biological Sciences

A complete introductory series of courses in principles of general biology or zoology and advanced coursework in biology or zoology (for which an introductory course is prerequisite) equivalent to 12 s.h.


Human or comparative vertebrate anatomy, preferably with a lab component, equivalent to 3 s.h.


A systemic human physiology course equivalent to 3 s.h.

A two-course sequence of anatomy and physiology equivalent to 6 s.h., preferably with a lab component, can fulfill the physiology and anatomy prerequisites.


A complete introductory series equivalent to 8 s.h.


A complete introductory series equivalent to 8 s.h.


Courses equivalent to 6 s.h.


A college-level mathematics course, at the level of trigonometry or higher, equivalent to 3 s.h.


A statistical methods course equivalent to 3 s.h.


Applications are submitted online through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). PTCAS allows applicants to use a single application and one set of materials to apply to multiple physical therapy programs. Once the application portfolio is complete with PTCAS, they will forward it to the University of Iowa.

Applications are accepted July 1 for entry into the D.P.T. program the following summer. Applicants who apply early and by September 15 will be given priority status in the admissions process. It is to an applicant's benefit to apply as soon as possible after July 1 as the admissions committee will begin the application review process to select those for interviews. Priority status application deadline is September 15, mid-application deadline is October 1, and final application deadline is December 1.

The physical therapy admissions committee requires personal, on-campus interviews. Since the number of students admitted into each class is limited, not all who apply for admission are invited for an interview.

Background Checks

Enrollment in the Doctor of Physical Therapy program is contingent on a successful criminal background check. Drug screening may be required for some clinical rotations.


Applicants admitted to the D.P.T. program must make an advance tuition payment which is forfeited if the applicant does not enroll. In addition to paying University of Iowa tuition and fees plus departmental fees, students are assessed laboratory fees for the human anatomy and neuroanatomy courses and are responsible for purchasing supplies, such as lab coats. Students also are responsible for all costs associated with professional development and clinical experiences.

All students are required to comply with the pre-entry and periodic health screening program developed by Student Health in cooperation with University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. All costs incurred for the health screenings are the student's responsibility. Students also are required to have health insurance.

Many academic and professional development scholarship opportunities are available to D.P.T. students matriculating within the department; view the awards on the Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science website.

Entering physical therapy students are eligible for financial aid as determined on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Students must sustain a strong academic performance in order to qualify for funds.

The employment outlook for physical therapy graduates is strong. Opportunities exist for professional practice in inpatient, outpatient, and community-based organizations. These include general or specialized hospitals, programs for children with disabilities, private physical therapy clinics, extended care facilities, nursing homes, community and governmental agencies, rehabilitation centers, the armed forces, foreign service, home health agencies, school systems, fitness centers, and athletic facilities. Teaching and research positions also are available as well as options for successful self-employment.

Physical therapists report a very high level of job satisfaction, driven both by prevalent employment opportunities and social interaction.