Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy

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Take the next step to a career in teaching, research

The University of Michigan-Flint’s Physical Therapy PhD degree program is uniquely created to foster qualified PT faculty and researchers who can lead and innovate in the field of physical therapy education. The three-year, on-campus Physical Therapy PhD program leverages your clinical skills as a licensed PT to further develop your expertise in academic leadership, teaching, and research.

Do you aspire to serve as an educator in Physical Therapy? If so, learn more about our program highlights, curriculum, and admission requirements.

Why Get a PhD in Physical Therapy at UM-Flint?

Become an Inspiring Mentor

Designed for Physical Therapists who have attained clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy degrees or master’s degrees, the PhD program empowers them to pursue a fruitful teaching trajectory in higher education.

Graduates of the PhD in Physical Therapy program are well prepared to assume leadership roles in academia as faculty members and mentors who teach and inspire the next generation of physical therapists.

Build Your Record of Academic Research

As a student in the PhD program, you work alongside UM-Flint’s distinguished Physical Therapy faculty members on research projects that align with faculty research areas while reflecting your personal scholarly and professional interests. With ample research opportunities during the program of study, you are able to build your record of publications and presentations valued in academia.

As part of the world-renowned University of Michigan community, you also have access to the academic and research resources at the Flint, Dearborn, and Ann Arbor campuses.

Scholarship Opportunities for Your PhD in PT

The University of Michigan-Flint’s College of Health Sciences provides numerous scholarships to support your PhD study. In addition, research assistantships and fellowship opportunities such as the Future Faculty Fellowship (FFF) program are available to fund your Physical Therapy PhD degree.

Program Curriculum

The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Physical Therapy degree is research-oriented, aiming to increase your confidence in teaching and leading scientific research in an academic setting. The program curriculum requires you to complete 45 to 55 credit hours of core courses and electives, depending on your educational background.

The coursework focuses on higher education, teaching methods, research methodology, and movement analysis and instrumentation. Elective courses allow you to develop knowledge that fits your research interests.

You need to pass a Qualifying examination and a Preliminary examination in order to be granted candidacy status. To graduate from the Physical Therapy PhD program, you also need to complete a dissertation research project.

Review the Physical Therapy (PhD) program curriculum and course list.

The dual DPT/PhD allows students in UM-Flint’s DPT program to earn both degrees and save time and money by double counting credits. After you finish your DPT and obtain your PT license, you can work as a clinician while taking on-campus classes 1 to 2 days each week to earn the PhD degree. 

Review the Dual DPT/PhD Physical Therapy program curriculum and course list.

Dr. Ryan Bean, a board-certified Orthopedic specialist demonstrates how to view an ACL graft site.

Diagnostic ultrasound is another tool students gain through the Um-Flint PT PhD instrumentation coursework, preparing them to investigate orthopedic issues such as rotator cuff tears, Achilles tendonitis, carpal tunnel, pelvic health, etc. Dr. Ryan Bean, a board-certified Orthopedic specialist demonstrates how to view an ACL graft site.

Academic Advising

At UM-Flint, we are proud to provide expert academic advisors to guide your educational journey toward achieving a PhD degree in Physical Therapy. For academic advising, please reach out to your program/department advisor.

Career Outlook for PT PhDs

The demand for Physical Therapy researchers and faculty in academia is rising as current professors begin to retire and more DPT programs are being developed across the country. With a PhD degree in Physical Therapy and adequate clinical experience as a licensed PT, you are prepared to explore paths in academia and mentor aspiring physical therapists.

Visit the ACAPT Career Center to explore PT education job opportunities!


The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) does not accredit post-professional physical therapy degree programs such as the PhD in Physical Therapy program.

Learn more about 2017 graduate Dr. Shweta Gore, who has found success as a professor and researcher, and who won a national innovation award for her teaching. “I owe a lot of my teaching development to my time in the PhD program,” she said. “The hands-on, real life experience that I received gave me so many pearls of wisdom that I carry to this day.”

Admission Requirements

Applicants to the PhD in Physical Therapy program should meet the following requirements:

  • A doctoral or master’s degree in Physical Therapy or a 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 equivalent in another country).
  • Minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.3 (B) on a 4.0 scale
  • Physical Therapy license or registration (or equivalent).
  • History of undergraduate, graduate or other research experience
  • Congruency between the applicant’s stated research interests, faculty expertise, and availability
  • Completion of prerequisite courses or their equivalents:
    • A 3-credit course covering research design, methods, and critical analysis of the literature, and the role of evidence-based practice. For dual DPT/PhD in PT applicants: PTP 820 – Quantitative Research Methods (4)
    • A 3-credit course covering common statistical topics and procedures in quantitative research, including the application of data analysis using statistical software. For dual DPT/PhD in PT applicants: PTP 821 – Statistical Analysis for Quantitative Research (4)
    • PTP 681 – Teaching, Learning & Health Education (2) or an equivalent


  • PTP 761 – Evidence-Based Practice (1) 
  • PTP 602 – Independent Research (1-10, optional, elected for 1-4 credits)

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

Applying to the PhD in Physical Therapy Program

It is strongly suggested that prior to submitting an application, prospective students meet with the Associate Director of the PhD in PT program to discuss career and professional development goals and to help determine if the UM-Flint PhD in PT program can provide a good fit. Each PhD 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. The Physical Therapy Department will assist in scheduling these meetings.

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

  • Application for Graduate Admission
  • $55 application fee (non-refundable)
  • Signed Chair Acceptance form must accompany application, waiver available at the department level
  • Copy of current Physical Therapy license or registration (or equivalent) (if license has lapsed submit a copy of most recent license)
  • Official transcript from the colleges or universities where you earned your PT and other graduate degree(s) as well as any transcript that shows completion of prerequisite coursework. Please read our full transcript policy for more information.
  • Copy of Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy (FCCPT) Educational Credentials Review, for applicants educated outside the U.S. or Canada.
  • If English is not your native language, and you are not from an exempt country, you must demonstrate English proficiency.
  • Curriculum Vitae or Résumé
  • A clearly defined Statement of Purpose that includes the following:
    • Why you are interested in an academic and/or research career
    • Include detailed description of research experience
    • Your proposed area/topic(s) of scholarly inquiry
    • If you have secured a PT faculty member to serve as your advisor and PhD Committee Chair, explain how your research goals align with your chair’s scholarship. If you have not yet secured a chair, name the faculty member(s) you could likely work with and how your research goals may align with their scholarship (see the Department of Physical Therapy for a current listing of faculty with PhD degrees).
    • Statements may be submitted online during the application process or emailed to [email protected].
  • Two letters of recommendation 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:
    • 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.
  • Please attach a sample of a recent technical/scientific manuscript or report you have written. If you have questions regarding this manuscript/report, please discuss this with the Associate Director for the PhD in PT program before submitting.
  • Students from abroad must submit additional documentation.
  • After Physical Therapy Department’s initial review of the application materials above, a completed PhD Committee Chair Acceptance form signed by the PhD faculty member who has agreed to serve as the applicant’s doctoral committee chair.

This program is an on-campus program with in-person courses. Admitted students can apply for a student (F-1) visa. Students living abroad are unable to complete this program online in their home country. Other nonimmigrant visa holders currently in the United States please contact the Center for Global Engagement at [email protected].

Application Deadlines

The PhD in Physical Therapy admits each year for the fall semester. Application deadline:

  • May 1

Learn More about UM-Flint’s Physical Therapy PhD Program

Combine your passion for teaching and your expert clinical experience to pursue a career in academic PT. With ample research opportunities and a rigorous curriculum, the University of Michigan-Flint’s Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Physical Therapy degree empowers you to lead, mentor, and inspire as a scientist and an educator.