PhD in Physical Therapy

Prepare for a rewarding career in Physical Therapy education and research!

Program Overview

The PhD in Physical Therapy program is designed to address the demand for qualified faculty in the DPT programs across the USA and to create academic leaders in PT education and scholarship. The PHD program meets these needs by enhancing knowledge in important areas such as: evidence-based practice in an area of advanced practice and clinical specialization, research, and academic leadership.  This program is open to UM-Flint DPT alumni who graduated since 2002 and currently enrolled students in the DPT and t-DPT programs.  DPT students begin their additional Ph.D. requirements upon completion of their DPT degree.  Both degrees are taught face-to-face at UM-Flint's Riverfront Campus in Flint, MI with some online coursework.

Admission Requirements

Admission Requirements

Eligible applicants must meet one of the following

  • Currently enrolled in the UM-Flint Professional
    DPT program and have successfully completed
    the 2nd year of DPT coursework
  • Currently enrolled in the UM-Flint Transitional
    DPT (t-DPT) program and have successfully
    completed two-thirds of their learning plan
  • Received a UM-Flint Professional or Transitional
    DPT degree
  • Completed or is currently enrolled in one of the
    UM-Flint Physical Therapy Certificate or
    Residency programs

All applicants must have:

     A minimum cumulative grade point of 3.0 on a 4.0
     scale (B) (or 5.0 on a 9.0 scale) in the DPT degree


Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Ph.D. students must complete a minimum of 50 credits. Out of the
50 credit hours, 18 credit hours will be the online Specialization/Advanced
Practice coursework, 6 credit hours in teaching and education leadership,
10 credit hours in research methods and statistics, 2 credit hours in
either the PT Ph.D. Seminar course or PT Ph.D. Independent Study,
and a minimum of 14 credit hours of Ph.D. Pre-Candidacy and Candidacy
Dissertation work. Within one semester of admission, each student must
form a doctoral committee which is led by their Ph.D. committee chair
(also their faculty advisor) and submit the information to the Ph.D.
faculty for approval.

Ph.D. Course Requirements

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

PTP 662 Critical Inquiry I (3)
PTP 581 Teaching, Learning & Health Education (2)
PTP 661 Literature Analysis in Evidenced Based Practice (2)
PTP 663 Critical Inquiry II (3) 
PTP 502 Independent Research (Optional)

An additional 50 credit hours in the PhD program upon
completion of the students DPT program is the minimum
required to grant the PhD.

The required curriculum includes the courses listed below:

Area of Specialization/Advanced Practice (18 credits).

Currently enrolled Ph.D. students must enroll in an area of
Specialization/Advanced Practice. Students will choose one
of the following four areas of Specialization/Advanced Practice
for a total of 18 credits: orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics, or
geriatrics. This allows the student to obtain a Ph.D. degree with
an area of advanced specialized practice in an area in which
the graduate can teach, practice and perform research.
See the Post-Professional Physical Therapy Clinical Certificates
website for more information. Each student must designate a
specified Specialization/Advanced Practice area
upon admission to the program.

A. Specialization/Advanced Practice Area

Area 1: Orthopedics PTP 674, PTP 675, PTP 676, PTP 775, PTP 776.

Area 2: Neurology PTP 677, PTP 678, PTP 679, PTP 777, PTP 778.

Area 3: Pediatrics PTP 690, PTP 691, PTP 692, PTP 790, PTP 791.

Area 4: Geriatrics PTP 686, PTP 687, PTP 688, PTP 787, PTP 788.

B.  Teaching and Educational Leadership (6 credits)

PTP 883 Higher Education Teaching Methods and Assessment (2 credits)

PTP 884 Higher Education Teaching Practicum (2 credits)

PTP 885 Educational Leadership in Higher Education (2 credits)

C.  Scholarly Activity/Research (10 credits)

PTP 820 – Quantitative Research Methods and Statistics (4 credits)

HCR 621 – Qualitative Research Methods (cross-listed with PTP 821 - Qualitative Research Methods) (3 credits)

HCR 500 – Epidemiology (cross-listed with PTP 822 - Epidemiology Research Methods) (3 credits)

D.  One of the following options for a minimum of 2 credits:

               PTP 810 - PT Ph.D. Seminar (1 credit for two semesters)

               PTP 815 – PT Ph.D. Independent Study (2 credits)

           Ask us how we can further individualize your Ph.D.!

E.  Dissertation: Pre-Candidacy & Candidacy Research (minimum of 14 credits)

PTP 990 – Dissertation: Pre-Candidacy (1-3 credits) (minimum of 3 credits across one to three semesters)


Students will regularly meet to discuss and provide feedback during their research proposal preparation process. The student will prepare in writing and orally present a dissertation proposal. The research proposal will generally contain a systematic review of the student’s selected dissertation topic which is journal submission-ready. Usually, students enroll for 1 credit for three semesters in years 2 and 3 in the Ph.D. program to develop and present their dissertation research proposal. The student must register for and participate in the PTP 990 course each semester after fall semester year 2 until successful completion of the qualifying exam and the preliminary exams.


PTP 995 – Dissertation: Candidacy (1-5 credits) (minimum of 11 credits across multiple semesters)


While enrolled in this course, students will conduct and complete their dissertation research. The dissertation will generally contain 1-3 journal submission-ready manuscripts. The student must register for PTP 995 for at least 1 credit per semester upon passing their preliminary exam until successful completion of the dissertation defense.

Application Process

Prior to submitting your application:
  • It is strongly suggested that you meet with the
    Associate Director of the Ph.D. program in order
    to assist you in your career and professional development.
  • You must meet with the coordinator of your
    Specialization/Advanced Practice area of interest.
  • It is also required that you meet with your potential
    Doctoral Committee Chair.

Please contact Christina Wixson to assist you in
scheduling these meetings.


Application Process

To be considered for admission, submit the following
to the Office of Graduate Programs, 251 Thompson Library
or online at Apply Here

  1. Application for Dual Degree or Change of Program
  2. A clearly defined Statement of Purpose that includes the following:
    1. Why you are interested in an academic and/or research career.
    2. The specific area of Specialization/Advanced Practice
      (orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics or geriatrics) that
      you wish to focus on while completing the Ph.D. degree program.
    3. Your proposed area/topic(s) of scholarly inquiry.
    4. The Ph.D. faculty member who has agreed to serve as your
      advisor and Ph.D. Committee Chair.
    5. Specify how your research interests align with the proposed
      Doctoral Chair’s research activities and interests.
  3. Two letters of reference are required. We strongly suggest
    that you 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:
    1. One letter from a UM-Flint DPT, t-DPT, or certificate/residency
      faculty member. However, if someone other than a UM-Flint
      faculty member can more accurately comment on your potential,
      please discuss this with the Associate Director for the Ph.D.
      program before submitting.
    2. One letter from a faculty member with specific
      expertise in the applicant’s area of Specialization/Advanced
      Practice while in the Ph.D. program.
  4. 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.
  5. 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. program before submitting).



Application Deadlines

Students are admitted for the fall semester only.

For Fall 2014 admission, completed application
packets submitted by April 15 are eligible for early
admission consideration; completed application
packets submitted by June 30 are eligible for regular
admission consideration.

Application deadlines for Fall 2015 and beyond:

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


This minimum of a 2.5 year program is designed for the professional DPT student who knows their long-term career aspirations are in academia to teach and do research. Students are expected to participate fully; and will spend sufficient time on campus for participating in the face-to-face classes, conducting research, interacting with other graduate students, and fostering intellectual activities.

Tuition and Fees

Please visit our Cashier's Office webpage for more information!