Doctor of Physical Therapy
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a postbaccalaureate degree conferred upon successful completion of an entry-level postprofessional education program. The specific nomenclature "DPT" is not a substitute or alternative for the physical therapist clinical designator "PT."
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree serves as a credential. It signifies completion of the current requirements needed to enter the profession and represents the completion of a comprehensive program and the fulfillment of high standards of clinical performance in professional preparation. It does not, however, signify advanced preparation or specialization.
The DPT degree supports the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Vision 2020 stating that "By 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy, recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to movement, function, and health."
Professional Degree (the entry-level)
The "professional" DPT is the degree conferred upon successful completion of a physical therapist professional (entry-level) education program. This program prepares the graduate to enter the practice of physical therapy. The entry-level DPT Program is designed for individuals just entering the field of physical therapy. This three year program prepares students holding a bachelor’s degree in a field other than physical therapy to become a licensed physical therapist.
The "transition" DPT is the degree conferred upon successful completion of a postprofessional physical therapist education program. The "transition" DPT is intended for practicing clinicians and typically offers a didactic and, in some cases, a clinical augmentation that is deemed necessary to meet current and future expectations for physical therapy practice. This augmentation (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) is defined by the difference in content between a practicing clinician's entry-level education (whatever the year of graduation) and current entry-level education that has not been otherwise acquired through continuing education or specialization. Saint Louis University, Boston University, Creighton University, University of Southern California, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of St. Augustine, Des Moines University, and A.T. Still University offer postprofessional "transition" DPT programs. Most of these are completed in a single year of part-time, online study. Other "transition" DPT programs are in various stages of development.
Advanced Clinical Science Degree
The "advanced clinical science" DPT is one of several degrees conferred by institutions upon successful completion of a postprofessional physical therapist education program. This program is intended to provide an experienced clinician with advanced knowledge, behaviors, and clinical skills, usually in a specific specialty area. These programs may include specialization, certification, or clinical residencies. Although there are many postprofessional "advanced clinical science" doctoral programs, very few use the "DPT" degree nomenclature; in fact, some postprofessional "advanced clinical science" doctoral programs have dropped the "DPT" nomenclature in favor of alternatives (eg, DPTSc, DHSc, ScD etc.).
- American Physical Therapy Association - Professional PT Education