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DPT students in classroom

The Physical Therapy Doctoral Program curriculum follows a traditional model that embraces evidence-based physical therapy practice while maintaining awareness of emerging technologies and medical advancements. It includes a strong clinical education component to give you the necessary breadth and depth to achieve proficiency in professional skills.

Didactic training

Throughout the three-year program, you participate in lectures, workshops, in-service training, case studies, field trips, grand rounds, and informal discussions. You are encouraged to participate in these opportunities as time permits.

Research training

During the program, you will plan and conduct one group research project and one individual project that may involve a single-subject or multiple-subject research design. Program mentors and physical therapy faculty and staff are available to help select and carry out research.

Clinical experiences

In total, you will gain 52 weeks of hands-on clinical opportunities and learning experiences by the end of graduation from clinicians at the top of their fields.

The first full-time clinical experience (CE II) takes place during the summer at the end of the first academic year. This clinical experience is designed to expose you to a specific patient care area as well as provide an opportunity for you to integrate skills learned during the first year. Appropriate clinical sites are in outpatient orthopedics or acute care. You must successfully complete CE II prior to advancing to the coursework that begins in the fall of the second academic year.

During the third year, you complete four 11-week, full-time clinical experiences. Three of the third-year clinical experiences take place in acute care, outpatient orthopedic, or adult neurorehabilitation settings. The remaining experience is an elective and can take place in areas such as geriatrics, sports medicine, hand therapy, work rehabilitation, or pediatrics. Community hospitals and general private practice settings also are options.

Clinical settings are yet another strength of the clinical education program. Each student has at least one full-time clinical experience that takes place at Mayo Clinic's campus in Rochester, Minnesota, a setting that includes diverse patient care areas and outstanding clinical instructors. The majority of external clinical sites are in the Midwest, located within a 500-mile radius of Rochester (Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). Contracts are also held with sites in Washington state, Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, Ohio, Tennessee, Wyoming, Utah, and Florida.

Clinical experience Approximate timing Description
I Year 1, spring semester  Part-time clinical experience designed to expose students to the breadth of the profession.
II Year 1, June-July  First full-time experience. Intermediate experience in select outpatient or acute care clinical sites. 
III Year 2, May-August  Full-time terminal clinical experiences in three required areas (outpatient orthopedics, acute care, and neurology). One elective area.
IV Year 3, August-November 
V Year 3, November-February 
VI Year 3, February-May  

Course overview and schedule

For the majority of the program, your learning schedule includes eight-hour days, five days a week. While the regular workweek is usually 40 hours, additional projects, patient activities and homework may be assigned. Please note, curriculum is periodically subject to minor revisions.

Year 1

Year I: Fall semester

  • Anatomy
  • Exam & Systems Review I
  • Intervention Skills I
  • Movement Science I
  • Pathopharmacology I
  • Physiology
  • Professional Management I
  • Research I

Year I: Spring semester

  • Clinical Experience I
  • Clinical Orthopedics
  • Exam & Systems Review II
  • Intervention Skills II
  • Movement Science II - Biomechanics
  • Neuroscience I
  • Pathopharmacology
  • Professional Management II

Year I: Summer semester

  • Exam & Systems Review III
  • Intervention Skills III
  • Movement Science III
  • Clinical Experience II

Year 2

Year II: Fall semester

  • Durable Medical Equipment 
  • Geriatrics
  • Human Growth & Development
  • Management of Complex Medical Conditions
  • Management of Integumentary Conditions
  • Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions I
  • Management of Neuromuscular Conditions I
  • Neuroscience II 
  • Research II

Year II: Spring semester

  • Management of Cardiovascular-Pulmonary Conditions
  • Management of Musculoskeletal Conditions II
  • Management of Neuromuscular Conditions II
  • Management of Sports Related Injuries
  • Professional Management III — Teaching and Learning in PT
  • Research III

Year II: Summer semester

  • Exam & Systems Review IV — Differential Diagnosis
  • Health Promotion and Wellness
  • Professional Management IV
  • Clinical Experience III
  • Management of Patients in the Acute Care Setting

Year 3

Year III: Fall semester

  • Clinical Experience IV
  • Track Time Block (Clinical Experience V or Research)

Year III: Spring semester

  • Clinical Experience VI
  • Professional Practice Evaluation

Graduation and certification

Upon successful completion of the Physical Therapy Doctoral Program, graduates receive a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences.

Graduates of the program become:

  • Skilled in screening, examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, intervention, and prevention of disorders or conditions impairing movement, function, and health
  • Capable of assuming responsibility for independent judgment in making sound decisions regarding patient management
  • Prepared to care for patients with varying conditions and in diverse health care settings
  • Able to practice both independently and collaboratively in a multicultural society
  • Ready to assume the multifaceted roles of an active professional, including practitioner, educator, researcher, consultant, administrator, collaborator, advocate, and lifelong learner
  • Qualified to promote the advancement of physical therapy through practice, education, and research

Graduates are also eligible to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). Successful completion of the professional licensure exam is required before beginning practice. In addition, each state requires licensure prior to practice.