Apr 20, 2024  
2016-2017 Catalog 
2016-2017 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physical Therapy (Ph.D)

Physical Therapy Department information  

The Doctor of Philosophy in Physical Therapy Program is designed to address the demand for qualified faculty in physical therapy programs in the USA and to create academic leaders in Physical Therapy education. This minimum 2.5 year, full-time program is designed for the professional DPT student whose long-term career aspirations are to teach and do research. The Ph.D. in Physical Therapy (Ph.D. in PT) in physical therapy 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.

After successful completion of the second year in the DPT program, a qualified DPT student may apply for admission into the Ph.D. degree. Admitted students begin additional Ph.D. in PT requirements upon completion of the DPT degree. A minimum of 50 additional credits beyond the DPT/tDPT is required for the Ph.D. in PT.  The Ph.D. in PT program has four distinct, yet overlapping foci/curricular elements that are essential characteristics for the next generation of leaders in physical therapist education:

  • Specialization-Advanced Practice concentration (18 credits)
  • Engagement and Transformational Leadership (6 credits)
  • Scholarly Activity/Research (10 credits)
  • Ph.D. Seminar elective/independent study, 2 credits, and Dissertation Research: pre-Candidacy, minimum of 3 credits and Candidacy, minimum of 11 credits (16 credits)

These curricular elements are woven throughout the entire Ph.D. in PT program, especially in the core and concentration courses required of all students. Scholarly practitioners blend theory and practice. This viewpoint is based upon the idea that theory and practice are linked and that research knowledge should be rooted within the context of real life problems faced by practicing therapists. 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. The core courses are designed to provide students with a global perspective of physical therapy education, scholarship, leadership, and engagement in contemporary academia and to prepare them for higher-level courses in the specialization/concentration area and scholarly activity/research. Of the 50 credits, 18 are based on specialization/concentration coursework (beyond DPT), 6 on education leadership and engagement, 10 on research design and statistics, and 16 on research. Coursework is designed in two parallel tracks of specialization/advanced practice and research, with an additional required core in teaching, academic leadership and engagement rounding out the required curriculum. The 18 credits of advanced practice tracks provide students with expertise in an area of clinical specialization/advanced practice and already are offered in the four PTD residency/certificate programs.

For more information about the University of Michigan-Flint Ph.D. in PT program, please visit our website:  http://www.umflint.edu/pt/phd-physical-therapy-program

Admission Requirements

DPT students interested in being considered for the Ph.D. in PT program apply to the PhD program upon successful completion of the second year of the Professional DPT program. t-DPT students apply to the Ph.D. in PT when they have completed 2/3 of their individualized t-DPT learning plan.  Students enrolled in the certificate of residency programs may apply at any time for aFall admission to the Ph.D. in PT program.  Evaluation of applicants for the Ph.D. in PT program is based on the following criteria:

  1. Admission to the UM-Flint DPT, t-DPT or certificate/residency programs (and completion of the DPT or t-DPT prior to beginning the Ph.D. in PT).
  2. A minimum cumulative grade point of 5.0 on a 9.0 scale (B) (or 3.0 on a 4.0 scale) in the DPT or t-DPT degree program.
  3. Completion of the prerequisite courses listed below.

Note: Meeting the minimum admission requirements does not guarantee entrance into the program. Under special circumstances, the Department of Graduate Admissions Committee may choose to waive any of the above requirements.

It is strongly suggested that prospective students meet with the Associate Director of the Ph.D. program in order to assist in career and professional development. Prospective students must meet with the coordinator of the Specialization/Advanced Practice area of interest. It is also required that prospective students meet with their potential Doctoral Committee Chair.  Please contact the Physical Therapy Department to assist in scheduling these meetings.

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. in Physical Therapy faculty for approval.

Application Process

To be considered for admission, the following must be submitted to the Office of Graduate Programs, 251 Thompson Library, or online at http://www.umflint.edu/graduateprograms/apply

  1. Application for Degree or Change of Program
  2. A clearly defined Statement of Purpose that includes:
    1. Interest in an academic and/or research career.
    2. The specific area of Specialization/Advanced Practice (orthopedics, neurology, pediatrics or geriatrics) that the student will focus on while completing the Ph.D. in PT degree program.
    3. Proposed area/topic(s) of scholarly inquiry.
    4. The Ph.D. faculty member who has agreed to serve as advisor and Ph.D. Committee Chair.
    5. Specify how research interests align with the proposed Doctoral Chair’s research activities and interests.
  3. Two letters of reference. It is strongly suggested that prospective students include individuals who are able to comment on  the student’s academic and clinical abilities, personal qualities, and potential teaching, research/scholarship, and service capabilities.   These sholuld include:
    1. A 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 the student’s potential, please discuss this with the Associate Director for the Ph.D. in PT program before submitting.
    2. A l etter from a faculty member with specific expertise in the applicant’s area of Specialization/Advanced Practice while in the Ph.D. in PT program.
  4. The completed Ph.D. Committee Chair Acceptance form signed by the Ph.D. faculty member who has agreed to serve as the Doctoral Committee Chair.
  5. A sample of a recent technical/scientific paper or report. If there are questions regarding this paper/report, please discuss this with the Associate Director for the Ph.D. in PT program before submitting.
Application Deadlines

Students are admitted for the fall semester only.  

Deadlines: October 15 (early admission);  February 15 (regular admission)

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, teaching and leadership, and in his/her chosen area of specialization/advanced practice.  Typically, students will be assessed in the area of research methodology by written and oral assessments, in teaching and leadership by portfolio and oral assessments, and in their chosen area of specialization/advanced practice by a written assessment.

Preliminary Examination

The preliminary examination is the student’s dissertation proposal defense.  For the examination, the student presents, an 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 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 the preliminary examination. 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) status.

Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee must include at least three faculty members, including one member outside 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 dissertation handbook.

Dissertation and Dissertation Defense

The dissertation must contain research work completed by the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy 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.

A grade of C (2.0) or better in each course.


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

Requirements (50 credits)

A. Concentration (18 credits)

Students complete one of the following four concentration areas, which are Areas of Specialization in physical therapy practice and research, which allows the student to obtain a Ph.D. in Physical Therapy degree with a concentration in an area of advanced specialized practice and research.  (See the Physical Therapy Post-Professional Clinical Residency  section for more information).

C. Scholarly Activity (12 credits)

Research design, statistics, and critical review of the literature:

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

  • (1-3). (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.

  • (1-5). (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.

E. Additional Requirements

  • 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.
  • All students in the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy program are required to attend PTP 990  on campus, and present at least one seminar on his/her research each semester until the dissertation proposal is completed.