Why UM-Flint

What Sets UM-Flint’s Ph.D. in Physical Therapy Apart?

  • This program is designed for individuals who aspire to careers in academic teaching, research, and advanced clinical practice in physical therapy.
  • The Ph.D. is designed to meet the growing need for physical therapy faculty who are prepared to conduct research and serve as mentors, as well as be future leaders of academic programs.
  • Graduates of this program will not only have the credentials but also the skills necessary for successful careers in academia.
  • This program will prepare graduates to take and pass the ABPTS Specialist Certification examination in their chosen area of Specialization/Advanced Practice in Orthopedics, Neurology, Pediatrics, or Geriatrics. 
  • The courses in the four Specialization/Advanced Practice areas (18 credits) are delivered in an online format.
  • The five courses in your chosen area of speciality/advanced practice (18 credits) are delivered in an online format.
  • Students will engage in research that aligns as closely as possible with faculty areas of expertise so that students receive appropriate mentorship; however, the goal is to begin to establish the student's individualized scholarly agenda and record of publications and presentations.
  • You will benefit from interacting with outstanding faculty with excellent records in teaching, scholarship, service, and advanced practice to mentor you in teaching, research, engagement and clinical practice.
  • As part of the world renowned University of Michigan system, UM-Flint can tap into additional resources, expertise, and contacts at our sister campuses in Ann Arbor and Dearborn to assist our students, their research, and other initiatives.



Admission Requirements
  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree (including those with a transitional DPT) from an accredited institution
  • Minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale (or 5.0 on a 9.0 scale)
  • Licensed or eligible for licensure in the United States
  • Completion of prerequisite courses or their equivalents:
    • PTP 662 – Critical Inquiry I
    • PTP 663 – Critical Inquiry II
    • PTP 681 – Teaching, Learning & Health Education
    • PTP 661 – Literature Analysis in Evidence-Based Practice
    • PTP 602 – Independent Research (Recommended)

Note:  You are encouraged to speak with the Associate Director of the Ph.D. in PT program regarding your eligibility for admission.  Meeting the minimum admission requirements does not guarantee entrance into the program.


Prior to submitting your application, it is strongly suggested that you meet as early as possible with the Associate Director of the Ph.D. in PT program to assist you in your career and professional development.  You should also meet with the coordinator of the specialization/advanced practice area of interest.  It is required that you meet with your potential Doctoral Committee Chair.  Please contact the Physical Therapy Department to assist in scheduling these meetings.

To be considered for admission, submit the following to the Office of Graduate Programs, 251 Thompson Library:

  • Application for Graduate Admission
  • $55 application fee (non-refundable)
  • Copy of current Physical Therapy license or registration (or equivalent)
  • Official transcript from the colleges or university where you earned your DPT degree as well as any transcript that shows completion of prerequisite coursework
  • A clearly defined Statement of Purpose that includes the following:
    • Why you are interested in an academic and/or research career.
    • The specific area of Specialization/Advanced Practice (orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics or geriatrics) that you wish to focus on while completing the Ph.D. in PT degree program.
    • Your proposed area/topic(s) of scholarly inquiry.
    • The Ph.D. faculty member who has agreed to serve as your advisor and Ph.D. Committee Chair.
    • Specify how your research interests align with your Doctoral Chair’s research activities and interests.
  • Two letters of reference are required. Please include individuals who are able to comment on your academic and clinical abilities, personal qualities, and potential teaching, research/scholarship, and service capabilities. Please include:
    • One letter from a DPT or t-DPT faculty member from the program that granted your degree.
    • One letter from a faculty member with specific expertise in your area of Specialization/Advanced Practice.
  • The completed Ph.D. Committee Chair Acceptance form signed by the Ph.D. faculty member who has agreed to serve as your Doctoral Committee Chair.
  • Please attach a sample of a recent technical/scientific paper or report you have written.  If you have questions regarding this paper/report, please discuss this with the Associate Director for the Ph.D. in PT program before submitting.
  • International students must submit additional documentation. Visit the International Students page for details.
Application Deadlines

Students are admitted for the fall semester only. Application packets submitted by October 15 are eligible for early admission consideration; completed application packets submitted by February 15 are eligible for regular admission consideration. Application deadlines:

  • October 15 (early admission)
  • February 15 (regular admission)


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Physical Therapy


PhD Degree Requirements
Students must have completed at least 10 prerequisite credits in the DPT program before applying for acceptance to the Ph.D. program.  While in the Ph.D. program, students complete a minimum of 50 credits beyond the DPT degree coursework.  Of the 50 credits, 18 credits will be based on concentration/specialization coursework, 6 credits on education leadership and teaching, 10 credits on research design, statistics and critical review of the literature, 2 credits in Ph.D. Seminar or Independent Study and a minimum of 14 credits on the Ph.D. dissertation including pre-candidacy and candidacy research.  During the admission process, the student will acquire a mutually agreed upon Doctoral Chair (also the faculty advisor), designate the area of concentration/specialization, and submit the information to the Ph.D. faculty for approval.

Students must have taken the following courses (or their equivalents) in the DPT or tDPT curriculum in teaching, research and evidence-based practice:

Course Requirements (50 credits)

  1. Concentration (Specialization/Advanced Practice) (18 credits).
    The program features four concentration areas which are Areas of Specialization in physical therapy practice and research.  Students complete one of the areas of specialization, which allows the student to obtain a Ph.D. degree with a concentration in an area of advanced specialized practice and research.  (See the Post-Professional Physical Therapy Clinical Certificates and Credentialed APTA Residency section for more information).  The following concentration areas are available:


  1. Education Leadership and Teaching (6 credits)

          PTP 883 - Higher Education Teaching Methods and Assessment 
          PTP 884 - Higher Education Teaching Practicum. 
          PTP 885 - Educational Leadership in Higher Education.  

  1. Scholarly Activity, Research Design, Statistics, and Critical Review of the Literature (12 credits)

       1.  PTP 820 - Quantitative Research Methods and Statistics. 
            HCR 500 - Epidemiology.  
            HCR 621 - Qualitative Research Methods.            

       2.  One of the following options:
            PTP 810 - PhD Seminar.  (1cr., elected twice).
PTP 815 - PhD Independent Study.  (2 cr.).

  1. Dissertation:  Pre-Candidacy and Candidacy Research (14 credits minimum)
  2. PTP 990 - Dissertation: Pre-Candidacy.  (elected to a total of at least 3 credits).
    Students prepare in writing and orally present a dissertation proposal (journal submission-ready), which generally contains a systematic review of the student’s selected dissertation topic.  Students meet in class and with their advisor regularly to discuss and provide feedback during the proposal preparation process.  Students must take the qualifying (ABPTS) examination during pre-candidacy coursework and pass the preliminary examination to be granted candidacy status.
  3. PTP 995 - Dissertation: Candidacy.  (elected to a total of at least 11 credits)
    Students conduct and complete dissertation research and write the dissertation, which generally comprises one to three journal submission-ready manuscripts.  Students must register for PTP 995  each semester upon passing the preliminary exam and until successful completion of the dissertation defense.

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is the national ABPTS examination in the student’s area of Specialization/Advanced Practice.  The student must be in good academic standing in the program when registering for the exam.  Depending on the ABPTS examination schedule and the student’s preparedness, he/she may take the exam as early as in the Winter semester of Year 2.

Students must take the qualifying examination during pre-candidacy coursework and pass the examination in order to be granted candidacy status.  Exceptions may be made if the students has not acquired enough clinical hours to qualify for taking the exam.  The student must provide his/her examination results to the Ph.D. faculty for their review.  In the case of failure, the student must develop a plan to continue to prepare for the examination and take it a second time.  If the student fails the examination a second time, he/she will be terminated from the program.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is the student’s dissertation proposal defense.  For the examination, the student presents a public, oral presentation which has been prepared in consultation with the dissertation chair and committee.

Prior to the student’s taking the examination, the Ph.D. faculty must approve the dissertation committee.  The dissertation committee, led by the Chair, must approve the dissertation topic and the proposal outline.

A student becomes a candidate for the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy after completing the required coursework with a minimum GPA of at least 3.0 (on a 4.0 scale) and passing both the qualifying and the preliminary examination. At this time, the student is allowed to register for PTP 995 - Dissertation: Candidacy.  and receives a certificate acknowledging this progress toward candidacy, “all but dissertation” (ABD) status.

Dissertation Committee
The dissertation committee must include at least three faculty members, including one outside the Physical Therapy Department.  The committee chair must be a qualified Physical Therapy Department faculty member.  Dependent on the dissertation topic, the committee may include a qualified member of industry, or other health-related or science program.  It is the responsibility of the dissertation committee chair and the members to provide quality, detailed and timely feedback for submitted drafts of the dissertation.  More details concerning the dissertation committee may be found in the dissertation handbook.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense
The dissertation must contain research work completed by the Ph.D. candidate. The manuscript must include one to three papers ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal.  The candidate must submit a final written copy of the manuscript to the dissertation committee for approval four weeks prior to the scheduled oral defense. The dissertation is defended at a final oral examination open to faculty, other students, and the interested public.

Other Requirements
It is expected that each Ph.D. student will spend sufficient time on campus for completing coursework, conducting research, interacting with other graduate students, and fostering intellectual activities. All students in the Ph.D. program are required to attend PTP 990 - Dissertation: Pre-Candidacy.  on campus, and present at least one seminar on his/her research each semester until the dissertation proposal is completed.  After attaining candidacy, each Ph.D. student is expected to spend at least 12 hours per week on campus working on his/her research and discussing research issues with faculty and fellow students.

Transfer Credit
Transfer of courses taken within the DPT prior to admission to the PhD program are a total of 10 credits.




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