May 29, 2020  
2017-2018 Catalog 
2017-2018 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 and researchers in physical therapy programs in the USA and world-wide to create academic leaders in Physical Therapy education. This minimum 3 year, full-time 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.

The Ph.D. in PT minimum of 50 additional credits is required for individuals who hold a DPT/tDPT degree is required for 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 of 3 cr., candidacy research 11 cr.). The additional other 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 the specialization/advanced practice track prepare the graduate for teaching in a core content area in physical therapy educational environment and to potentially acquire American Board of Physical Therapy Specialities (ABPTS) certification in that area of specialization. Other elective courses will augment the student’s preparedness for success in teaching and scholarship.

More information about the University of Michigan-Flint Ph.D. in PT program is available at:

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 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:

  1. 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 equivalent in another country).
  2. Minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 (B) on a 4.0 scale
  3. Physical Therapy license or registration (or equivalent)
  4. 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.

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. 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 the area of concentration/specialization, and submit this information to the Ph.D. in Physical Therapy 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 Therapty license or registration (or equivlent)
  4. Official transcripts from the colleges or universities where physical therapy degrees were earned, as well as any transcripts showing prerequiste and/or other graduate coursework
  5. Current resume or curriculum vitae
  6. Clearly defined Statement of Purpose that includes the following:
    a. Reason for interest in an academic and/or research career.
    b. The desired focus area of specialization/advanced practice (orthopedics, neurology, or pediatrics).
    c. Proposed area/topic(s) of scholarly inquiry.
    d. If an advisor/Ph.D. committee chair is secured, an explaination of 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 search. (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. A letter from a faculty member from the program that granted your most recent degree.
    b. A letter from a faculty member or another individual (clinical supervisor, administrator, etc) who can comment on attributes listed above.
  8. Sample of a recent technical/scientific paper or report written by the applicant. (Questions regarding this paper/report may be discussed with the Associate Director for the Ph.D. in PT program   prior to submission).
  9. Copy of FCCPT Educational Credentials Review, for applicants educated outside the United States 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.

Deadlines: Febuary 1 (early admission);  May 1 (regular admission)

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 statsitics, teaching and leadership, and in his/her chosen area of specialization/advanced practice.  Typically, students will be assessed in the 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 students’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 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 dessertation must include one to three manuscripts ready for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. The candidate must submit a final written copy of the dissertation 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.

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)

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.

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 specialized practice and research. (See the Post-Professional Physical Therapy Clinical Residency section for more information.

Additional Electives


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.