January 2022 Institutional Profile Survey
Physical therapist program survey identifies key issues
Mar 28, 2022
Higher education leaders have been increasing their reliance on
and commitment to data and analytics to advance institutional goals,
strengthen student outcomes and enhance teaching. At the same time,
academic physical therapist programs are recognizing that they need more
data -- both internally and from peer institutions -- to support their
strategic planning and decision-making.
To capture critical baseline data about Doctor of Physical Therapy
(DPT) programs and how they operate, the American Council of Academic
Physical Therapy (ACAPT) launched its first member Institutional Profile
Survey targeting 95% of all accredited DPT schools in the United
States. Seventy-nine percent (79%) of the programs responded,
understanding that by sharing their data along with other DPT programs,
each institution can learn from others.
At present, there is no evidence-based single standard approach in
DPT education but having data across institutions allows each program to
decide if changes are needed to better achieve its goals and mission.
One survey participant noted, “This survey made me think about how I am
collecting data regularly for my program assessment and information on
Survey results reinforced and revealed important takeaways for academic physical therapy:
Career paths within PT academia are growing
PT offers a career path with great opportunity as many of the
profession’s educators begin to retire and new DPT programs are
developed. Survey respondents indicated there are 183 faculty searches
underway as professors
retire and accept other positions. Twenty DPT programs
are currently in the candidacy stage and at least six more are in
development, according to the Commission on Accreditation in Physical
Therapy Education (CAPTE).
programs are also encountering more turnover as long-time program
directors and directors of clinical education (DCEs) with six or more
years of experience are leaving their positions.
- Over half (55%) of the DPT program directors have been in their position less than four years.
- Forty-three percent (43%) of the current DCEs have less than 4 years in their position.
workload required to manage a DPT program may necessitate more than one
person with administrative responsibilities. A third (33%) of programs
report having one or more assistant or associate directors and 43% have
at least one full-time
assistant or associate DCE.
To meet the current
and future staffing needs of academic PT, ACAPT encourages more DPT
students and clinicians to consider a terminal doctoral degree and career in academia.
Approximately a quarter of the reporting programs offer a terminal
doctoral degree in addition to the DPT degree. Accreditation
requirements specify that at least 50% of program core faculty must hold
a PhD or equivalent terminal
doctoral degree, and all full-time faculty are required
to have a defined scholarly agenda.
The full pipeline for future
faculty is unknown, as it is difficult for many programs to determine
the number of DPT students who pursue advanced degrees and specialties
There are opportunities for increased DPT program influence, budget knowledge & authority
Program leaders have varying levels of independence in overseeing their programs.
percent (65%) of the respondents – including 71% of public institutions
-- do not have influence in setting tuition for their programs and a
third don’t have influence in setting fees.
- Half of the DPT
program directors are not sure about the amount of tuition and fees
applied to their program budget. Nearly a quarter aren’t sure how their
program budget is determined.
- Over half of the programs have
authority to set their operational expense budgets and about 80% have
authority to allocate their finances. Eighty percent (80%) of the
participating institutions – and 71% of the surveyed public institutions
- have some ability to negotiate increases in their
Not all institutions have discretionary funds in
their program budget. Public institutions are more likely (82%) than
private non-profit institutions (67%) to have these discretionary funds
that are left to a director’s judgment for
In an attempt to help expand DPT program influence and authority, ACAPT members narrowly passed a motion in
October 2021 asking that all physical therapy educational units be
designated as a department, school, or college of physical therapy by
2030, and the leader of the educational unit
be a physical therapist who serves as the chair of that
department, dean or equivalent.
According to the motion, the DPT
chairperson or dean should have autonomy of the fiscal resources and
budgetary oversight of the CAPTE-accredited DPT program and report
directly to a high-level administrator, including a dean, chief academic
officer or equivalent.
While the motion is
aspirational, complex, and may not be an ideal fit at all institutions,
it represents a commitment to help DPT programs have a strong voice
within their college or university.
Clinical-academic partnerships are evolving
members have identified transforming clinical education as crucial for
academic PT; the survey responses help frame some key issues and
reinforce that DPT education is evolving as it strives for more robust
- More than a third of all
programs do NOT require any pre-admissions observation hours – while 38%
require 26-50 hours, which is the amount recommended by ACAPT’s
National Consortium of Clinical Education (NCCE) in their 2020 observation hours report.
all programs (97%) have required settings for clinical education
experiences, with acute care/inpatient hospital facility, extended
care/skilled nursing facility, ambulatory care/outpatient requirements,
and private practice
facility topping the lists.
are relatively few weeks of full-time integrated clinical experiences in
students’ first year, and they increase in year two. While the survey
did not request the number of terminal experiences within programs, more
of programs report having a terminal experience(s)
of 21 or more weeks.
Clinical education management is
demanding. All programs conduct at least some site visits during
students’ clinical education experiences – and nearly 50% of programs
visit every student during every experience. Moreover, 56%
of programs have 301+ agreements with clinical partners.
CAPTE reports a mean of 617 clinical education sites. Future surveys
will delve further into clinical education within academic PT.
is an opportunity for deeper engagement with clinical partners and
their affiliated academic programs. The majority of academic programs
report being actively engaged with fewer than 25% of their clinical
partners. Engagement could range
from guest lecturing and participating in faculty
meetings to serving on an advisory board.
Many programs offer
benefits for clinical partners, such as continuing education (75%) or
library privileges (47%). See the member-approved ACAPT motion about non-monetary benefits for clinical education experiences.
Programs identify DEI as a top area for improvement
Many DPT programs would like to build upon their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
- Fifty-eight percent (58%) feel they have at least some room to improve to include DEI measurable outcomes in their strategic plan.
- Fifty percent (50%) note that they could better act upon collected data to improve the culture for inclusivity.
- Forty-eight percent (48%) report they could better assess non-academic obstacles to degree completion.
- Forty-four percent (44%) could improve in acting upon their own data to increase diversity in their student body.
DPT programs lack access to student financial aid and alumni data
About half of all programs report they do not have access to financial assistance and debt-related data for their students. For those programs that do have this data, at least 70% of their students are receiving financial assistance and have higher education
Similarly, a third or more of DPT programs lack alumni data on fellowship, residencies, and advanced degrees. Many programs have information about their students’ employment, but 12 months post-graduation, about 30-65% of the participating institutions
do not have data on APTA membership, or pursuit of advanced degrees or post-professional training programs.
Review the full report
For details on all the 2022 Institutional Profile Survey responses, ACAPT members can access the full report at members.acapt.org. Non-members may email email@example.com with
ACAPT plans to conduct regular surveys to track and report trends about academic physical therapy. While this is the first report based on the Institutional Profile Survey, we expect more analysis and reporting in 2022 and plan to share more information
at the October 2022 Annual Physical Therapy Education Leadership Conference (ELC) in Milwaukee. We encourage all ACAPT member DPT programs to participate in ACAPT’s
How to use the survey data
Whether you work in a large or small institution or program, you can use the survey data to make decisions for your own DPT program.
- Innovation: We recognize that each institution has a unique mission, structure and approach. You'll be able to use the survey aggregate data to learn about different DPT program approaches.
You may find that certain data will help you make a business case to your administration about changes you’d like to make.
- Inquiry: As you complete the survey and review results, you may question certain assumptions, gain new insights and consider more effective ways to approach teaching or serving your community.
- Collaboration: We’re all in this together! The survey process begins to collect data related to the challenges you and other ACAPT members face, allowing ACAPT and the PT education community to track and tackle solutions to critical issues.
- Confidentiality: You’ll receive aggregate reporting and individual responses will be kept completely confidential and secure. The Center is designed to inform and guide – not to compare and assess.
We plan to expand data collection and analysis going forward. We learned a lot from the Institutional Profile Survey process and will be adapting future surveys to cover the needs and topics most important to DPT educators.
Thank you for your commitment to excellence in
academic physical therapy!
The core purpose of the American Council of Physical Therapy (ACAPT) is to lead physical therapy in the pursuit of academic excellence. ACAPT’s membership represents 95% of
all accredited DPT programs in the United States. Learn more about ACAPT.
About the 2022 ACAPT Institutional Profile Survey
ACAPT launched its first Institutional Profile Survey in January 2022 to the program director at each of its 256 ACAPT member institutions. With a 79% response rate, 217 programs responded.