Sep 26, 2022  
2015-2016 Academic Catalog (Jan 2016) 
2015-2016 Academic Catalog (Jan 2016) [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Physical Therapy, Entry-Level, DPT


Carol Counts Likens, PhD, PT, MBA, Program Director

Objectives of the DPT Program

The objectives of the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree program are to provide to enrolled students a quality education that requires accumulation of scientific knowledge, acquisition of essential physical therapy skills and the development of professional attitudes and behaviors. Graduates of the program are qualified to sit for the National Physical Therapist Examination. A passing score on the examination is required for licensure as a physical therapist.

Curriculum Description

The Department of Physical Therapy is located within the College of Health Professions. The program is designed as a full time “4 + 3” program that leads to the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. Students complete four years of pre-professional coursework at other colleges or universities, and then complete three years of professional education on the Memphis campus of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center. Candidates are required to have a baccalaureate degree prior to admission. Students matriculate in the fall term and graduate at the end of the spring term (May), three years later, after completion of all academic and clinical internship requirements. Clinical internship sites are located in Memphis, throughout Tennessee, and in surrounding states (see section on State Authorizations for stipulations regarding out-of-state field experiences). Due to the limited number of clinical sites in Memphis and other urban areas, students should anticipate the financial impact of traveling and living out of town for the majority of their clinical internships. The intent of the clinical internships is to provide the student with broad exposure to physical therapy practice in a variety of settings and geographic locations. As a rule, no student will be allowed to complete all clinical internship experiences in any one geographic location.


The  DPT program at the UTHSC is   accredited   by   the   Commission   on   Accreditation   in   Physical Therapy  Education (CAPTE), 1111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22314; telephone: 703-706-3245; email:; website: CAPTE does not accredit transitional or post-professional programs.


To be eligible for consideration for admission, applicants must fulfill the requirements listed below. Meeting the minimum requirements does NOT assure admission to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program. Priority is given to residents of Tennessee. Applicants whose  native language is not English must submit results of TOEFL, with minimal score of 550.

  1. A baccalaureate degree and all prerequisite courses must be completed prior to enrollment, with a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a 4.00 scale. Grades of “D” in required courses are not acceptable.
  1. If a required course is repeated, both grades are calculated into the cumulative GPA, but the credit hours assigned to the course may be counted only once in fulfilling the required number of hours.
  2. Credit hours earned for non-theory courses in physical education, music, and military science are not accepted in fulfillment of prerequisite hours or as elective hours.
  3. Courses completed in a PTA program may not be used in fulfillment of any science course required for admission to the UTHSC physical therapy program. Selected coursework completed in a PTA program may be accepted in partial fulfillment of the required number of elective hours.
  4. Transcripts from foreign education institutions are not considered.
  5. The following 19 hours of prerequisite courses must be completed and reported on official transcripts before an application will be considered for admission: Biology including laboratory (4 sem cr hrs), Chemistry I including laboratory (4 sem cr hrs), Physics I including laboratory (4 sem cr hrs), Anatomy and Physiology I including laboratory (4 sem cr hrs), and Psychology (3 sem cr hrs).
  1. A competitive score on the verbal and quantitative sections of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required.
  2. A completed application submitted to the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) must be received by October 1st (soft deadline) or January 15th (application close date) for fall admissions. ALL application materials, including transcripts, GRE scores, PT observation hours, and pre-professional evaluation, must be verified by  PTCAS within four (4) weeks of the application close date for the Admissions Committee to consider the application.  NOTE:  Applications are reviewed and candidates are accepted until all the class seats are filled.  In some years, all the seats may be filled before applications in January are considered.
  3. A personal interview, if requested (based on science/math/psychology GPA and GRE score), is required for admission.
  4. One completed pre-professional evaluation submitted to the PTCAS site from either an applicant’s basic science professor OR the applicant’s academic advisor.
  5. Applicants must demonstrate good physical and mental health consistent with the demands of the education program.
  6. Observation hours (paid or volunteer):  50 hours are required, but 100 hours are recommended.  Applicants must submit documentation of observation hours from more than one category of settings (e.g., acute care hospital, inpatient rehabilitation, outpatient, skilled nursing facility, etc.).  Hours must be completed by the application deadline and verified in PTCAS
  7. Coursework from another physical therapy program may not be transferred to meet the requirements for admission to or graduation from the UTHSC DPT program.
  8. Applicants who accept a position in the program must declare the ability to fulfill the Technical Standards for Admission to the College of Health Professions, Department of Physical Therapy.

Prior to enrollment, the following courses must be completed with grades of “C” or better.

Courses Credit Hours
Biological Sciences* 8
Anatomy and Physiology* 8
General Chemistry* 8
General Physics* 8
Mathematics** 3
Statistics 3
Psychology 6

*Must include laboratory experiences.  Virtual, online, AP and CLEP courses are not acceptable for science courses. Acceptable science courses are ones typically required for science majors.
**Student must complete coursework that fulfills physics prerequisite.

Factors Considered in the Selection of Students

Factors utilized by the Admissions Committee include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  1. Academic Record. Past academic performance is considered an indication of the probability of an applicant’s completing the academic portion of the program successfully. As noted, the minimum GPA required for admission is 3.0; however, the average GPAs of recent entering classes has been 3.5 or higher.
  2. Graduate Record Examination scores. Competitive applicants obtain a score of at least 300 on the GRE.
  3. Personal Interview. Students admitted to the professional program are selected on a competitive basis. The personal interview explores areas such as: experience and knowledge of the profession, interpersonal skills, communication skills, problem solving abilities and professional potential.
  4. Motivation and Knowledge of the Field. The Admissions Committee believes that students who are knowledgeable about what physical therapists do are most likely to take maximum advantage of the educational opportunities in the physical therapy education program. Interest in and knowledge of the field may be evidenced by an applicant’s having taken advantage of available opportunities for learning about physical therapy. Applicants who have been successful in gaining admission to the program typically have over 100 observation hours in a variety of settings, and with a variety of patients with various diagnoses. These students were also successful in expressing their overall knowledge of the field of physical therapy during their individual interviews..

Technical Standards for Physical Therapy Students

Students must be able to perform the Technical Standards of the curriculum, with or without accommodations, and present no threat to the safety and well-being of others.  Prior to matriculation, students are required to indicate in writing they have reviewed and are able to meet the college-wide and program specific technical standards (outlined below).  Additional information regarding college-wide technical standards, and accommodations to meet such when deemed appropriate, is provided in the college portion of the catalog.  Questions or requests for accommodations should be addressed to Student Academic Support Services and Inclusion (SASSI)

Motor Skills:
The delivery of physical therapy requires gross and fine motor control. Students in the Department of Physical Therapy must have the physical strength, stamina, and motor control to lift and transfer patients, assist patients with ambulation, stand for prolonged periods of time, perform CPR, and perform all other activities associated with patient care. Candidates must have sufficient manual dexterity, strength and endurance to engage in physical therapy procedures that involve palpating, grasping, pushing, pulling, and holding. Additionally, the student must be able to ensure the safety of the patient at all times.

Sensory/Observational Skills:
Students in the Department of Physical Therapy must be able to observe demonstrations and participate in all educational experiences as required in the curriculum. Students must be able to observe patients and be able to obtain an appropriate medical history directly from the patient or guardian. Such observation and participation necessitates the functional use of vision, hearing, and other sensory modalities.

Communication Skills:
Students in the Department of Physical Therapy must be able to communicate effectively and sensitively with patients in English. In addition, students must be able to communicate in English in oral and written form with faculty, other healthcare providers, and peers in the classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings. Such communication skills include hearing, speaking, and reading and writing in English. Students must have the ability to complete reading assignments and search and evaluate the literature. Students must be able to complete written assignments and maintain written records. Students must also have the ability to use therapeutic communication, such as attending, clarifying, coaching, facilitating, and touching. These skills must be performed in clinical settings, as well as the didactic and laboratory environments.

Intellectual/Conceptual, Integrative, and Qualitative Skills:
Students in the Department of Physical Therapy must have the ability to measure, calculate, reason, analyze, and synthesize data. Problem solving and diagnosis, including obtaining, interpreting, and documenting data, are critical skills demanded of physical therapists which require all of these intellectual abilities. These skills allow students to make proper assessments, sound judgments,  appropriately prioritize therapeutic interventions, and measure and record patient care outcomes. Students must have the ability to use computers for searching, recording, storing, and retrieving information. In addition, students must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of anatomic structures.

Behavioral/Social Skills and Professionalism:
Students in the Department of Physical Therapy must demonstrate attributes of empathy, integrity, concern for others, interpersonal skills, interest, and self-motivation, as such qualities are assessed not only during the admissions process but throughout physical therapy education. Students must be able to exercise sound judgment, complete the responsibilities attendant to the evaluation and care of patients, and develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients. Students must be able to adapt to ever-changing environments, display flexibility, respect individual differences and learn to function in the face of uncertainties and stresses that are inherent in the educational process, as well as the clinical problems of many patients. Students must have the ability to be appropriately assertive, delegate responsibilities appropriately, and function as part of a health care team. Such abilities require the organizational skills and initiative necessary to meet deadlines and manage time.

Health Requirements

Physical therapy students are required to be immunized against the Hepatitis B virus and to have an annual skin test for Tuberculosis. Some clinical education sites require affiliating physical therapy students to have one or more of the following: rubella titer or vaccine, general physical examination, influenza vaccine; updated tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough vaccines, satisfactory completion of screening procedures. Information about meeting these requirements is provided during orientation, and during the clinical assignment process.

Program-Specific Policies

Attendance Requirement

Physical therapy students are expected to attend all scheduled classes, laboratory sessions, and clinical internship assignments. In cases of illness or emergency, the student must notify the individual faculty members whose classes the student will miss, or the clinical instructor of the affiliation site, no later than 8:30AM of the day of absence. Appointments for health services should not be made during scheduled class time.

Clinical Internships and State Authorization

Clinical internship sites are located in Memphis, throughout Tennessee, and in surrounding states. Due to the limited number of clinical sites in Memphis and other urban areas, students should anticipate the financial impact of traveling and living out of town for the majority of their clinical internships. As described in more detail in the UTHSC overview portion of the catalog  as well as the college-wide section of the catalog, state authorization is mandated for any field experiences to be completed in locations outside of Tennessee.  The UTHSC is responsible for securing the necessary authorizations for any out of state experiences to be completed. Students are to work closely with department leadership to ensure the necessary authorizations are in place prior to finalizing any out of state field experiences.

Student Professional Organization Membership

Physical therapy students qualify for student membership in the American Physical Therapy Association and Tennessee Physical Therapy Association. Students are required to participate as student members in the professional association.


All courses in each term must be passed before the student is allowed to progress to the next term. The point-grade conversion scale used for all courses is as follows:



Less than 75 in a course is a failing grade of “F.”

Quality points used to calculate the GPA are assigned as follows:



Some courses are graded based on Pass/Fail criteria as outlined in course syllabi. These grades are not included in calculating the grade point average (GPA).  Information about grading for courses that are incomplete, and for courses from which a student has withdrawn is covered in the general college section of the catalog. Students should reference this information about grade assignments in these situations.

Curriculum Summary

The schedule of a physical therapy student is rigorous. Because of the time required for attending lectures, laboratories and clinical assignments, plus the time necessary for study and practice, students are encouraged to minimize outside work commitments during the time they are enrolled in the program.

For students matriculating during academic year 2015-2016, the following summarizes the required courses included in the Doctor of Physical Therapy professional curriculum. Required courses are offered annually in the terms indicated

Total: 21 credit hours

Total: 30 credit hours

Total: 18 credit hours

Total: 15 credit hours

Total: 22 credit hours

Spring Term III (January - June)

Total: 14 credit hours

Electives (Term and courses vary)* Cr Hrs: 3

Total Hours for Curriculum: 125 credit hours

*Students enrolled in the entry-level Doctor of Physical Therapy program are required to complete at least one three credit hour elective. Electives are offered through the Department. A listing of the available courses will be provided to students during the spring term of the second year of the program and the fall term of the third year of the program.

Progress, Promotion and Graduation

Each  term,  the  faculty  who  taught  each  class of  students during  that  term  meet  as a  Progress and Promotions Committee for that class of students.

  1. In order to progress to the next term in good standing, students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale. If a student’s GPA for that term drops below 3.0, the Progress and Promotions Committee forwards to the Dean of the college a recommendation that the student be placed on probation.  During that probation term, the student must achieve a GPA of 3.0 or greater. The student may also be required to meet other expectations in order to be removed from probation. While on probation, the student may not participate in clinical internship experiences.
  2. Earning a grade of “F” will result in a recommendation from the Department that the student be dismissed from the program.
  3. A student must demonstrate satisfactory personal and professional behavior deemed by faculty as being necessary for academic success and competency in clinical practice. Such areas may include ability to establish rapport with clients, ability to work and communicate effectively with members of the health care team, dependability, judgment, integrity, initiative, and interest. Failure to meet these requirements may result in the Progress and Promotions Committee’s recommending that the student be placed on probation.
  4. According to the college policy, in exceptional circumstances, a student may be allowed to repeat all or part of the curriculum. All earned grades are calculated in the overall GPA.
  5. Students must meet the college and program technical standards to continue in the program and graduate.
  6. In the case of a negative recommendation by the Progress and Promotions Committee, the Dean makes a decision to either accept the recommendation or not. When the Dean decides to uphold the recommendation, her office sends a letter to the student (via encrypted email) to notify the student of the negative decision. If the student is placed on probation, the letter outlines requirements the student must meet in order to be removed from probation.

See College section  for recommended actions, notification of students, appeal process, leaves of absence, withdrawal and readmission.

Graduation Requirements

The following requirements must be satisfied to earn the degree of Doctor of Physical Therapy:

  1. Satisfactory completion of a minimum of 125 credit hours.
  2. Completion of all coursework with an overall GPA of 2.75 or better. Grades of “C” or above are required in all content area coursework.
  3. Students must earn a “P” in all clinical internship experiences.
  4. Students must demonstrate satisfactory professional and personal behavior.
  5. Students must discharge all financial obligations to the University and remove all deficiencies documented by the Registrar


The criteria for graduation with honors designation in the DPT program include:

  • Highest honors: Those students whose overall grade point averages are among the highest 10% of the class.
  • High honors: Those students whose overall grade point averages are among the next highest 10% of the class

Awards to students in the entry-level DPT program

Outstanding Physical Therapy Student Award
This award, given annually on behalf of academic and clinical physical therapy faculty, is presented to a graduating DPT student in recognition of his/her excellent performance in both classroom and clinical settings.

Margaret and Perry “Stack” Ayers Scholarship Award
The recipient of this award epitomizes the personal and professional qualities valued and cultivated by the faculty of the UTHSC Doctor of Physical Therapy program. This individual demonstrates exceptional interpersonal skills with classmates, faculty and patients, and will be remembered as an exemplary student clinician and model for what the UTHSC DPT program hopes to graduate. This award is given to a graduating DPT student, but not necessarily given annually.

Physical Therapy Faculty Award
As the highest honor physical therapy faculty can bestow on a student, the Faculty Award requires a unanimous vote of the faculty and is given in recognition of outstanding academic and clinical performance, and potential for leadership in the profession of physical therapy. This award is given to a graduating DPT student, but not necessarily given annually.