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DPT Program Guidelines

Since inception, ACAPT’s members, representing about 95% of all accredited U.S. PT educational institutions, have approved many motions and initiatives to guide program directors, faculty and clinical educators in achieving excellence in PT education.  Below recaps the notable approved motions, reports and resources.

We encourage all to share your DPT program ideas and solutions here.

ACAPT shares approved motions and recommendations with the Commission of Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) to encourage changes to existing accreditation rules and standards.

ACAPT top guidelines for a successful doctor of physical therapy (DPT) education program

1) Program Structure

2)  Curricula development

Exercise Physiology may be a pre-requisite for some programs or may be taught within the program as noted below.

Exercise physiology recommendations, including:

  • Exercise physiology/nutrition 
  • Exercise testing
  • Exercise principles and prescription 
  • Fitness theory and practice 
  • Health promotion, wellness and prevention

2012 ACAPT Exercise Physiology Task Force Report

Movement system

ACAPT also endorses the concept that the movement system is core to physical therapist practice, education, and research. ACAPT supports inclusion of the movement system as: 

  • an identifiable element in every physical therapist educational program, and
  • a visible component of each program’s public-facing web presence (e.g., as part of a program description, program goals, curricular threads or proposed graduate outcomes).

Minimum duration for professional DPT education programs

Strategies for a successful DPT-PhD dual degree program

More curricula development resources

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3) Admissions

    Required entry-level prerequisite courses

    • Anatomy and physiology 
      • One course in anatomy with lab AND one course in physiology with lab (or)
      • A two-course sequence in anatomy and physiology, each with lab 
    • Two courses in biological sciences (not botany) 
    • Two courses in general chemistry with lab 
    • Two courses in general physics with lab 
    • One course in psychology 
    • One course in statistics

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    4) Clinical education

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    5) Diversity 

    • In 2013, ACAPT members approved this motion with a definition of under-represented minority: “Under-represented in physical therapy means those racial and ethnic populations that are underrepresented in the PT profession relative to their numbers in the general population, as well as individuals from geographically underrepresented areas, lower economic strata, and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds.”

    • National Equity, Diversity & Inclusion Commission - established in 2020
    • Faculty diversity awards - started in 2020
    • More diversity resources

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    6) Interprofessional education core competencies

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    7) Advocacy

    ACAPT continually advocates on behalf of DPT programs and their clinical affiliates.

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    8) For students

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      9) Professional development

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      Other resources

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      Check out the Center for Excellence in Academic Physical Therapy


      ACAPT welcomes ideas & solutions to help meet the needs of DPT programs. Submit your suggestions for continuing education, professional development, guidelines, tools, best practices and more.

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