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Professional (Entry-Level) Doctoral Degrees in Physical Therapy: Status as of Spring 2003

Domholdt, Elizabeth, PT, EdD, FAPTA; Kerr, Leann O'Reel, PT, MS; Mount, Katherine A, PT, MS

Journal of Physical Therapy Education: October 2006 - Volume 20 - Issue 2 - p 68–76

Background and Purpose. Since its inception in 1993, the professional (entry-level) Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree has been adopted by a rapidly growing number of programs in the United States. The purpose of this study was to provide information on the process and status of the transition toward the DPT in spring 2003, updating and extending a previous study completed in spring 2000.

Subjects. Directors of 145 of 191 (76%) accredited physical therapist education programs participated.

Method. An Internet-based questionnaire was sent to the directors of 191 accredited physical therapist education programs in the United States.

Results. Of 144 respondents, 119 had made a decision regarding the DPT, with 117 of those (98%) deciding in favor of offering the DPT degree. Compared to public institutions, a higher proportion of programs at private institutions had decided to implement the DPT. Substantially more programs were further along in the higher-level approval process than in 2000. Desired characteristics of DPT students at entry were relatively unchanged compared to those desired by programs previously in place at the respective institutions. According to the questionnaire responses, clinical education characteristics have changed to include: more hours in clinical education, longer duration of each clinical experience, and facilitation of student roles beyond patient care. Almost 90% of DPT programs required either a group or individual culminating scholarly project. Programs' desired faculty characteristics have evolved and put a greater emphasis on a record of publication, establishment of a research agenda, and possession of a doctoral degree other than the professional (entry-level) DPT.

Discussion and Conclusion. Programs educating physical therapists in the United States are transitioning to professional DPT programs at a rate that exceeds prior predictions. While there are still a higher proportion of programs at private than public institutions making the transition, other characteristics that once differentiated programs with differing decisions are no longer factors.

Elizabeth Domholdtis vice president for Academic Affairs and professor of physical therapy at The College of St Scholastica, 1200 Kenwood Ave, Duluth, MN 55811 ( Please address all correspondences to Elizabeth Domholdt.

Leann O'Reel Kerris a physical therapist at Wishard Memorial Hospital, 1001 W 10th St, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (

Katherine A Mountis a physical therapist at Master Care, 2121 Wood St, Ste B208, Sarasota, FL 34237 (

This study was conducted in partial fulfillment of Leann O'Reel Kerr's and Katherine Mount's professional Master of Science in Physical Therapy degrees. When this study was conducted, Elizabeth Domholdt was professor and dean of the Krannert School of Physical Therapy at the University of Indianapolis.

This study was approved by the University of Indianapolis Committee on Research Involving Human Participants.

Received March 4, 2005, and accepted June 26, 2006.

Copyright2006 (C) Academy of Physical Therapy Education, APTA
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