Physical Therapy - Entry Level, Doctor of Physical Therapy

Department of Physical Therapy and Athletic Training

College of Health and Human Services

We designed this clinical doctoral plan to include both didactic study and clinical experiences. Through this plan, you develop competencies in diagnosis, evidence-based practice, and primary care as well as a working knowledge of health-care economics. Experience in these areas prepares you to meet the current standards of the highly competitive physical therapy profession.

This plan is nationally recognized by the American Physical Therapy Association.

  • To receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree (DPT) at Northern Arizona University, you must complete a planned group of courses, consisting of 110 units of graduate-level courses, depending upon the student’s initial degree and transcript.

    For more information see the Requirements for Doctoral Degree: DPT

In addition to University Requirements:

  • Complete individual plan requirements.

Minimum Units for Completion 110
Additional Admission Requirements Required
Fieldwork Experience/Internship Required
Research Individualized research is required.
Additional Fees/Program Fees Required
Student Learning Outcomes

Outcomes align with Standards from the Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education
Professional Practice Expectation: Accountability

  • Adhere to legal practice standards, including all federal, state, and institutional regulations related to patient/client care and fiscal management.
  • Have a fiduciary responsibility for all patient/clients.
  • Practice in a manner consistent with the professional Code of Ethics.
  • Change behavior in response to understanding the consequences (positive and negative) of his or her actions.
  • Participate in organizations and efforts that support the role of the physical therapist in furthering the health and wellness of the public.
Professional Practice Expectation: Altruism
  • Place patient’s/client’s needs above the physical therapist’s needs.
  • Incorporate pro bono services into practice.
Professional Practice Expectation: Compassion/Caring
  • Exhibit caring, compassion, and empathy in providing services to patients/clients.
  • Promote active involvement of the patient/client in his or her care.
Professional Practice Expectation: Integrity
  • Demonstrate integrity in all interactions with patients/clients, family members, caregivers, other health care providers, students, other consumers, and payers.
Professional Practice Expectation: Professional Duty
  • Demonstrate professional behavior in all interactions with patients/clients, family members, caregivers, other health care providers, students, other consumers, and payers.
  • Participate in self-assessment to improve the effectiveness of care.
  • Participate in peer assessment activities.
  • Effectively deal with positive and negative outcomes resulting from assessment activities.
  • Participate in clinical education of students.
  • Participate in professional organizations.
Professional Practice Expectation: Communication
  • Expressively and receptively communicate in a culturally competent manner with patients/clients, family members, caregivers, practitioners, interdisciplinary team members, consumers, payers, and policy makers.
Professional Practice Expectation: Cultural Competence
  • Identify, respect, and act with consideration for patients’/clients’ differences, values, preferences, and expressed needs in all professional activities.
Professional Practice Expectation: Clinical Reasoning
  • Use clinical judgment and reflection to identify, monitor, and enhance clinical reasoning to minimize errors and enhance patient/client outcomes.
  • Consistently apply current knowledge, theory, and professional judgment while considering the patient/client perspective in patient/client management
Professional Practice Expectation: Evidence-based Practice
  • Consistently use information technology to access sources of information to support clinical decisions.
  • Consistently and critically evaluate sources of information related to physical therapist practice, research, and education and apply knowledge from these sources in a scientific manner and to appropriate populations.
  • Consistently integrate the best evidence for practice from sources of information with clinical judgment and patient/client values to determine the best care for a patient/client.
  • Contribute to the evidence for practice by written systematic reviews of evidence or written descriptions of practice.
  • Participate in the design and implementation of patterns of best clinical practice for various populations.
Professional Practice Expectation: Education
  • Effectively educate others using culturally appropriate teaching methods that are commensurate with the needs of the learner.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Screening
  • Determine when patients/clients need further examination or consultation by a physical therapist or referral to another health care professional.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Examination
  • Examine patients/clients by obtaining a history from them and from other sources.
  • Examine patients/clients by performing systems reviews.
  • Examine patients/clients by selecting and administering culturally appropriate and age-related tests and measures. Tests and measures include, but are not limited to, those that assess:
    • Aerobic Capacity/Endurance
    • Anthropometric Characteristics
    • Arousal, Attention, and Cognition
    • Assistive and Adaptive Devices
    • Circulation (Arterial, Venous, Lymphatic)
    • Cranial and Peripheral Nerve Integrity
    • Environmental, Home, and Work (Job/School/Play) Barriers
    • Ergonomics and Body Mechanics
    • Gait, Locomotion, and Balance
    • Integumentary Integrity
    • Joint Integrity and Mobility
    • Motor Function (Motor Control and Motor Learning)
    • Muscle Performance (including Strength, Power, and Endurance)
    • Neuromotor Development and Sensory Integration
    • Orthotic, Protective, and Supportive Devices
    • Pain
    • Posture
    • Prosthetic Requirements
    • Range of Motion (including Muscle Length)
    • Reflex Integrity
    • Self-Care and Home Management (including activities of daily living [ADL] and instrumental activities of daily living [IADL])
    • Sensory Integrity
    • Ventilation and Respiration/Gas Exchange
    • Work (Job/School/Play), Community, and Leisure Integration or Reintegration (including IADL)
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Evaluation
  • Evaluate data from the examination (history, systems review, and tests and measures) to make clinical judgments regarding patients/clients.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Diagnosis
  • Determine a diagnosis that guides future patient/client management.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Prognosis
  • Determine patient/client prognoses.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Plan of Care
  • Collaborate with patients/clients, family members, payers, other professionals, and other individuals to determine a plan of care that is acceptable, realistic, culturally competent, and patient-centered.
  • Establish a physical therapy plan of care that is safe, effective, and patient/client-centered.
  • Determine patient/client goals and outcomes within available resources and specify expected length of time to achieve the goals and outcomes.
  • Deliver and manage a plan of care that is consistent with legal, ethical, and professional obligations and administrative policies and procedures of the practice environment.
  • Monitor and adjust the plan of care in response to patient/client status.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Intervention
  • Provide physical therapy interventions to achieve patient/client goals and outcomes. Interventions include:
    • Therapeutic Exercise
    • Functional Training in Self-Care and Home Management
    • Functional Training in Work (Job/School/Play), Community, and Leisure Integration or Reintegration
    • Manual Therapy Techniques (including Mobilization/Manipulation Thrust and Nonthrust Techniques)
    • Prescription, Application, and, as Appropriate, Fabrication of Devices and Equipment
    • Airway Clearance Techniques
    • Integumentary Repair and Protection Techniques
    • Electrotherapeutic Modalities
    • Physical Agents and Mechanical Modalities
  • Determine those components of interventions that may be directed to the physical therapist assistant (PTA) upon consideration of:
    • the needs of the patient/client,
    • the PTA’s ability,
    • jurisdictional law,
    • practice guidelines/policies/codes of ethics, and
    • facility policies.
  • Provide effective culturally competent instruction to patients/clients and others to achieve goals and outcomes.
  • Complete documentation that follows professional guidelines, guidelines required by health care systems, and guidelines required by the practice setting.
  • Practice using principles of risk management.
  • Respond effectively to patient/client and environmental emergencies in one’s practice setting.
Patient/Client Management Expectation: Outcomes Assessment
  • Select outcome measures to assess individual outcomes of patients/clients using valid and reliable measures that take into account the setting in which the patient/client is receiving services, cultural issues, and the effect of societal factors such as reimbursement.
  • Collect data from the selected outcome measures in a manner that supports accurate analysis of individual patient/client outcomes.
  • Analyze results arising from outcome measures selected to assess individual outcomes of patients/clients.
  • Use analysis from individual outcome measurements to modify the plan of care.
  • Select outcome measures that are valid and reliable and shown to be generalizable to patient/client populations being studied.
Practice Management Expectation: Prevention, Health Promotion, Fitness, and Wellness
  • Provide culturally competent physical therapy services for prevention, health promotion, fitness, and wellness to individuals, groups, and communities.
  • Promote health and quality of life by providing information on health promotion, fitness, wellness, disease, impairment, functional limitation, disability, and health risks related to age, gender, culture, and lifestyle within the scope of physical therapist practice.
  • Apply principles of prevention to defined population groups.
Practice Management Expectation: Management of Care Delivery
  • Provide culturally competent first-contact care through direct access to patients/clients who have been determined through the screening and examination processes to need physical therapy care.
  • Provide culturally competent care to patients/clients referred by other practitioners to ensure that care is continuous and reliable.
  • Provide culturally competent care to patients/clients in tertiary care settings in collaboration with other practitioners.
  • Participate in the case management process.
Practice Management Expectation: Practice Management
  • Direct and supervise human resources to meet patient’s/client’s goals and expected outcomes.
  • Participate in financial management of the practice.
  • Establish a business plan on a programmatic level within a practice.
  • Participate in activities related to marketing and public relations.
  • Manage practice in accordance with regulatory and legal requirements.
Practice Management Expectation: Consultation
  • Provide consultation within boundaries of expertise to businesses, schools, government agencies, other organizations, or individuals.
Practice Management Expectation: Social Responsibility and Advocacy
  • Challenge the status quo of practice to raise it to the most effective level of care.
  • Advocate for the health and wellness needs of society.
  • Participate and show leadership in community organizations and volunteer service.
  • Influence legislative and political processes.


Additional Admission Requirements
  • Individual program admission requirements over and above admission to NAU are required.

  • The NAU graduate online application is required for all programs. Admission to many graduate programs is on a competitive basis, and programs may have higher standards than those established by the Graduate College.

    Admission requirements include the following:

    • Transcripts.
    • Undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited institution with a 3.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale ("A" = 4.0), or the equivalent.

    Visit the NAU Graduate Admissions website for additional information about graduate school application deadlines, eligibility for study, and admissions policies.

    Ready to apply? Begin your application now.

    International applicants have additional admission requirements. Please see the International Graduate Admissions Policy.

    • GRE® revised General Test
    • Must also complete PTCAS application
    • Three letters of recommendation
    • Prerequisites (completed prior to enrolling in the program)
      • Laboratory and lecture-based anatomy and physiology courses
      • Laboratory and lecture-based general chemistry
      • Laboratory and lecture-based college level physics
      • One semester of general psychology, statistics, and abnormal or developmental psychology
    • Personal statement or essay
    • IVP Fingerprint Clearance Card

  • This degree will require 33 months of full time study to complete.

Doctoral Requirements
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also successfully complete. For prerequisite information, click on the course or see your advisor.

  • Program fees are established by the Arizona Board of Regents (ABOR). A program fee of $5000 per year for each of three years has been approved for Flagstaff campus students in this program. A program fee of $7000 per year for each of three years has been approved for Phoenix Biomedical campus students in this program.