PhD in Physical Therapy

Prepare for a rewarding career in Physical Therapy education and research!
Upon review of the website, please feel free to email for more information.

Program Overview

The Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy Program is designed to address the demand for qualified faculty and researchers in physical therapy programs in the USA and world-wide and to create academic leaders in Physical Therapy education.  This minimum 3 year, full­time program is designed for individuals whose long-term career aspirations are to teach and perform research.  The Ph.D. in Physical Therapy (Ph.D. in PT) program meets these needs by enhancing knowledge in important areas such as the teaching of physical therapy courses, academic leadership, evidence-based practice in an area of advanced practice (orthopedics, neurology, or pediatrics), and conducting and disseminating research.


PhD in PT Degree Requirements

A minimum of 50 additional credits is required for individuals who hold a DPT/tDPT degree in order to obtain the Ph.D. in PT degree; for individuals who are physical therapists and whose highest degree is a master’s degree, a minimum of 60 credits is required.  Required core courses (41 credits) include:  teaching and educational leadership (6 cr.); research design and methods, statistics, and critical review of the literature (15 cr.); seminar (2 cr.); movement analysis and instrumentation (4 cr.); and the Ph.D. dissertation (pre-candidacy minimum 3 cr., candidacy research minimum 11 cr.).  The additional 9 or 19 credits, depending upon prior degree held, is determined according to the individual student’s needs and goals.

Integrating theory and practice allows graduates to understand and implement the best evidence-based approaches needed to address current issues in physical therapy practice, education and research.  Core courses are designed to provide students with the background and skills to successfully navigate leadership roles in an academic and/or research environment.  Courses within a specialization/advanced practice track prepare the graduate for teaching in a core content area in a physical therapy educational environment and potentially to acquire American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) certification in that area of specialization.  Other elective courses augment the student’s preparedness for success in teaching and scholarship.

Admission Requirements

Admission Requirements

Individuals who have a doctoral, master’s or bachelor’s degree in Physical Therapy from an accredited institution in the United States (or its
equivalent in another country) may apply to the Ph.D. in PT program.  
(Individuals with a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy must also hold a master’s degree in another health-related field.) Students currently
in a DPT, tDPT, or master’s program are invited to contact the Associate
Director for the Ph.D. in PT program to discuss future career goals that could include obtaining a Ph.D. in PT degree.

Evaluation of applicants for the Ph.D. in PT program is based on the following criteria:
  • Doctoral or master’s degree in Physical Therapy or bachelor’s degree in  Physical Therapy with a master’s degree in a health-related field, from an accredited institution in the United States (or its equivalent in another country).
  • Minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale
  • Physical Therapy license or registration (or equivalent)
  • Completion of all prerequisite courses or their equivalents; additional courses recommended. (Transcripts are needed for verification)

Note:  Meeting the minimum admission requirements does not guarantee entrance into the program. Under special circumstances, the Physical Therapy department may choose to waive any of the above requirements. Individuals are encouraged to speak with the Associate Director of the Ph.D. in PT program regarding eligibility for admission.


Ph.D. Course Requirements



  • PTP 662 ­ Critical Inquiry I (3).
  • PTP 663 ­ Critical Inquiry II (3).
  • PTP 681 ­ Teaching, Learning & Health Education (2).


  • PTP 761 – Literature Analysis in Evidence-Based Practice or PTP 861 ­ Literature Analysis in Evidence ­Based Practice (2).
  • PTP 602 ­ Independent Research (Recommended).

Course Requirements (50 or 60 credits)

Students with a previous DPT or tDPT are required to complete a minimum of 50 credits; those with a master’s degree are required to complete 60 credits.

A.   Core Courses (41 credits)

   Higher Education Teaching and Leadership (6 credits)

  • PTP 883 ­ Higher Education Teaching Methods and Assessment (2).
  • PTP 884 ­ Higher Education Teaching Practicum (2).
  • PTP 885 ­ Educational Leadership in Higher Education (2).

    Scholarly Activity, Research Design, Statistics, and
    Critical Review of the Literature (15 credits)

  • HCR 500 ­ Epidemiology (4).
  • HCR 621 ­ Qualitative Research Methods (3).
  • PTP 820 ­ Quantitative Research Methods and Statistics (4).
  • PTP 821 – Statistical Analysis for Quantitative Research (4)

    Ph.D. Seminars (2 credits)

  • PTP 810 - Ph.D. in PT Seminar I (1)
  • PTP 811- Ph.D. in PT Seminar II (1)

   Movement Analysis and Instrumentation (4 credits)

  •  PTP 816 - Movement Analysis and Instrumentation (4)

   Dissertation: Pre-­Candidacy and Candidacy Research
   (14 credits minimum)

  • PTP 990 ­ Dissertation: Pre­Candidacy (3). (elected for a minimum total of 3 cr., at least 1 credit per semester of pre-candidacy).
  • PTP 995 ­ Dissertation: Candidacy (1­1). (elected for a minimum of 11 cr., at least 1 credit per semester of candidacy)
B.  Electives (9 or 19 credits)

A plan of study for the remaining 9 credits (for students with a previous DPT degree) or 19 credits (for students with a previous Master's degree) is created depending on the student's chosen areas of concentration, appropriate preparation for the teaching practicum and individual needs and goals.

C.  Areas of Specialization Electives

The program features three Areas of Specialization in physical therapy practice and research.  Students who complete a concentration (all of the courses in one of the areas of specialization, 18 credits) may obtain a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy degree with a concentration in an area of advanced specialized practice and research.

(See the Post-Professional Physical Therapy Clinical Residency section for more information).
In addition, this coursework will assist the student the student in potentially acquiring an American Board of Physical
Therapy Specialities (ABPTS) certification in that area of specialization.

  • PTP 690­ Advances in Development in Pediatric Diseases and Disorders (4).
  • PTP 691 ­ Evidence­Based Examination and Outcomes in Pediatric Practice (4).
  • PTP 692 ­ Evidence­Based Plan of Care in Pediatric Practice (4).
  • PTP 774 ­ Health Policy and Practice Administration in Advanced Practice and Clinical Specialization (1).
  • PTP 790 ­ Case Studies in Pediatric PT (3).
  • PTP 791 ­ Health Policy and Practice Administration in Pediatric Physical Therapy (2).
Adult Neurology
  • PTP 677 ­ Advances in Neuroscience in Neurologic Diseases and Disorders (4).
  • PTP 678 ­ Evidence­Based Examination and Outcomes in Neurologic Practice (4).
  • PTP 679 ­ Evidence­Based Plan of Care in Neurologic Practice (4).
  • PTP 774 ­ Health Policy and Practice Administration in Advanced Practice and Clinical Specialization (1).
  • PTP 777 ­ Case Studies in Neurologic PT (3).
  • PTP 778 ­ Health Policy and Practice Administration in Neurologic Physical Therapy (2).
  • PTP 674 ­ Advances in Histology, Anatomy and Kinesiology in Musculoskeletal Diseases & Disorders (4).
  • PTP 675 ­ Evidence­Based Examination and Outcomes in Musculoskeletal Practice (4).
  • PTP 676 ­ Evidence­Based Plan of Care in Musculoskeletal Practice (4).
  • PTP 774 ­ Health Policy and Practice Administration in Advanced Practice and Clinical Specialization (1).
  • PTP 775 ­ Case Studies in Orthopedic PT (3).
  • PTP 776 ­ Health Policy and Practice Administration in Orthopedic Physical Therapy (2)

Additional Electives

  • PTP 815 - Ph.D. in PT Independent Study (1-4; may be selected over multiple semesters)
  • PTP 817 - Motor Control/Motor Learning (2)
  • Students may petition for other course electives specific to their needs and goals

It is expected that each Ph.D. in Physical Therapy student will spend sufficient time on campus for completing coursework, conducting research, interacting with other graduate students, and fostering intellectual activities.  The curriculum is subject to change. 

Program Processes

Program Processes

The Ph.D. program has several components in addition to coursework:

Qualifying Examination

The qualifying examination is designed to assess the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy student’s knowledge in the three key areas of research methodology and statistics, teaching and leadership, and in his/her chosen area of specialization/advanced practice. Typically, students are assessed in the following areas:

  1. Research methodology and statistics, through written and oral assessments
  2. Teaching and leadership, through portfolio and oral assessments
  3. The chosen area of specialization/advanced practice, through written and oral assessments

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is the student’s dissertation proposal defense.  For the examination, the student prepares in writing a research proposal and presents an oral presentation in defense of the research proposal 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.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee must include at least three faculty members, including one member outside of the Physical Therapy Department.  The committee chair must be a qualified Physical Therapy Department faculty member. More details concerning the dissertation committee may be found in the Ph.D. in PT Program Student Handbook.


A student becomes a candidate in the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy program 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 preliminary examinations.  At this time, the student is allowed to register for PTP 995 and receives a certificate acknowledging this progress toward candidacy, “all but dissertation” (ABD) or Ph.D.(c) status.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

The dissertation must contain research work completed by the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy candidate. The dissertation must include one to three manuscripts ready for submission to a peer­reviewed journal. The candidate must submit a final written copy of the dissertation to the dissertation committee for approval prior to the scheduled oral defense.  The dissertation is defended at a final oral examination open to faculty, other students, and the interested public.

Application Process

It is strongly suggested that prior to submitting an application, prospective students meet with the Associate Director of the Ph.D. in PT program to discuss career and professional development goals and to help determine if the UM-Flint Ph.D. in PT program can provide a good fit.  Each Ph.D. student must have a doctoral committee and chair, and prospective students must meet with potential chairs or co-chairs to determine if there is a match between the student’s and faculty interests.  In addition, applicants should meet with coordinator of the student’s desired area of specialization or advanced practice (orthopedics, neurology, or pediatrics).  The Physical Therapy Department will assist in scheduling these meetings.

During the admission process, the student will acquire a mutually agreed upon Doctoral Chair (also the faculty advisor), designate an area of concentration/specialization, and submit this information to the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy program faculty for approval.

To be considered for admission, the following must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Programs, 251 Thompson Library, or online at

  1. Application for graduate admission
  2. Nonrefundable $55 application fee
  3. Copy of current Physical Therapy license or registration (or equivalent)
  4. Official transcripts from colleges or universities where physical therapy degree(s) were earned, as well as any transcripts showing prerequisite and/or other graduate coursework
  5. Current resume or curriculum vitae
  6. Clearly defined Statement of Purpose that includes the following:
  • Reasons for interest in an academic and/or research career.
  • The desired focus area of specialization/advanced practice (orthopedics, neurology, or pediatrics).
  • Area or topic(s) for scholarly inquiry.
  • If an advisor/Ph.D. committee chair is secured, an explanation of how the applicant’s and chair’s research goals align; if a chair is not yet secured, the name(s) of faculty whose scholarship aligns with the applicant’s research. (The PT website includes a current listing of faculty with Ph.D. degrees.)

   7. Two letters of reference from individuals able to comment on the
       applicant’s academic and clinical abilities, personal qualities, and
       potential teaching, research/scholarship, and service capabilities,
       to include:

  • A letter from a faculty member from the program granting the most recent degree.
  • A letter from a faculty member or another individual (clinical supervisor,
    administrator, etc.) who can comment on the attributes listed above.

   8. Sample of a recent technical/scientific manuscript or report written by the
       applicant. (Questions regarding this manuscript/report may be discussed
       with the Associate Director for the Ph.D. in PT program prior to

   9. Copy of FCCPT Educational Credentials Review, for applicants
       educated outside the U.S. or Canada.

   10. Additional documentation required of international applicants.
         (See the International Students page for details.)

   11. After Physical Therapy Department’s initial review of the application
         materials above, a completed Ph.D. Committee Chair Acceptance
         form signed by the Ph.D. faculty member who has agreed to
         serve as the applicant’s doctoral committee chair.

    Application Deadlines

    Students are admitted for the Fall semester only. The next PhD cohort will begin Fall semester, 2018.

    Deadlines: February 1, 2018 (early admission), May 1, 2018 (regular admission)


      Full Time Student:
      A minimum of a 3 year program is designed for the full time student who knows their long-term career aspirations are in academia to teach and do research. There are part time options as well.  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!

      CAPTE Statement

      The Professional DPT Program at the University of Michigan-Flint
      is not accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy
      education (CAPTE), 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314;
      telephone: 703-706-3245; email:; website: