Program accreditation
Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education

The Department of Physical Therapy serves the people of the commonwealth of Virginia and the nation by providing educational programs related to physical therapy. The department provides an environment that encourages education through problem solving, free inquiry, professional behavior and scholarship. The department’s primary focus is to prepare individuals for general physical therapy practice. These practitioners are educated to serve as an entry point into the health care system for consumers. Post-professional programs provide quality education leading to careers in teaching and research. The department also provides assistance and services to the community and engages in research and scholarly activities related to the practice of physical therapy.

Preparation of physical therapists

VCU’s Department of Physical Therapy offers a three-year degree program leading to a Doctor of Physical Therapy. The program prepares students for entry into the profession by teaching them to evaluate and manage patients with physical therapy problems effectively and in accordance with ethical principles. It also provides students with strategies to continually define and meet their own educational needs in order to keep skills and knowledge current throughout their professional careers.

Expected student outcomes

Satisfactory performance in the experiences provided in the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program prepares the graduate to:

  • Effectively examine, evaluate, diagnose and determine the prognosis of individuals with impairments, functional limitations and disabilities
  • Apply health promotion principles and practices in primary, secondary and tertiary prevention
  • Manage physical therapy problems in a safe, ethical, legal and professional manner
  • Use appropriate educational principles to design methods to teach patients/clients, caregivers, colleagues and other health care professionals
  • Effectively manage changes in the physical function and health status of patients/clients
  • Collaborate with other health care practitioners to achieve the optimum delivery of health care
  • Select and implement safe and effective physical therapy interventions and assess the subsequent outcomes
  • Determine the need for further examination or consultation by another physical therapist or for referral to another health care professional.
  • Manage human and material resources and services to provide high-quality and cost-effective physical therapy services in diverse settings
  • Apply concepts and principles of management to effectively supervise support personnel to whom tasks have been delegated
  • Effectively document patient information and physical therapy services to colleagues and payers in an organized, logical and concise manner consistent with legal and ethical norms.
  • Integrate basic principles of critical inquiry to evaluate, interpret and utilize professional literature in clinical practice, participate in clinical research activities and critically analyze new concepts in the application of physical therapy practice
  • Effectively communicate, verbally and non-verbally, with patients and their caregivers, health care personnel and members of the community
  • Demonstrate an awareness of the influence of social, economic, legislative and demographic factors on the delivery of health care
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of lifelong learning and a commitment to the physical therapy profession

VCU Graduate Bulletin, VCU Graduate School and general academic policies and regulations for all graduate students in all graduate programs

The VCU Graduate Bulletin website documents the official admission and academic rules and regulations that govern graduate education for all graduate programs at the university. These policies are established by the graduate faculty of the university through their elected representatives to the University Graduate Council.

It is the responsibility of all graduate students, both on- and off-campus, to be familiar with the VCU Graduate Bulletin as well as the Graduate School website and academic regulations in individual school and department publications and on program websites. However, in all cases, the official policies and procedures of the University Graduate Council, as published on the VCU Graduate Bulletin and Graduate School websites, take precedence over individual program policies and guidelines.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on academic regulations for graduate students.

Degree candidacy requirements

A graduate student admitted to a program or concentration requiring a final research project, work of art, thesis or dissertation, must qualify for continuing master’s or doctoral status according to the degree candidacy requirements of the student’s graduate program. Admission to degree candidacy, if applicable, is a formal statement by the graduate student’s faculty regarding the student’s academic achievements and the student’s readiness to proceed to the final research phase of the degree program.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following degree candidacy policy as published in the VCU Graduate Bulletin for complete information and instructions.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on degree candidacy requirements.

Graduation requirements

As graduate students approach the end of their academic programs and the final semester of matriculation, they must make formal application to graduate. No degrees will be conferred until the application to graduate has been finalized.

Graduate students and program directors should refer to the following graduation requirements as published in the Graduate Bulletin for a complete list of instructions and a graduation checklist.

Visit the Graduate study section for additional information on graduation requirements.

Other information

A hard copy of the VCU D.P.T. program student handbook and policies and procedures manual is distributed to each entering physical therapy student at orientation.

Apply online at graduate.admissions.vcu.edu.

Admission requirements

Degree: Semester(s) of entry: Deadline dates: Test requirements:
D.P.T.SummerThe beginning of November of the year prior to intended enrollmentGRE
For non-native English-speaking applicants, regardless of immigration status, a TOEFL score of at least 600 (score of 250 on computerized exam)
All test scores should be reported directly to VCU.

Special requirements

  • The VCU Department of Physical Therapy participates in the American Physical Therapy Association-sponsored physical therapy centralized application service for applicants to the D.P.T. program. All students interested in applying to this program must submit their application materials directly to PTCAS. Applicants who apply through PTCAS will submit a completed Web-based application comprising biographical data, colleges and universities attended, academic course history, physical therapy observation hours, list of reference providers, work experience, extracurricular activities, honors, professional licenses and a personal essay. It is the applicant’s responsibility to read and follow all PTCAS and program-specific instructions. Please visit the Department of Physical Therapy website for application deadlines.

In addition to the general admission requirements of the VCU Graduate School, applicants must meet the following requirements:

  1. A Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited college or university
  2. A minimum grade-point average of 2.7 (in a 4.0 system)
  3. A minimum total of 45 volunteer hours in at least two physical therapy practice settings
  4. Three recommendations, at least one of which is from a physical therapist

Prerequisites for admission to the professional Doctor of Physical Therapy program include a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree from an accredited college or university. If the applicant has received college credit hours for AP courses and/or exams, and those hours are listed on the university transcript, those credit hours will be accepted. A grade of D in any required prerequisite course is not acceptable. A minimum GPA of 2.7 (in a 4.0 system) is required to be considered for admission. The GRE is required; the scores should be reported directly to Virginia Commonwealth University. For non-native English-speaking applicants, regardless of immigration status, a Test of English as a Foreign Language score of at least 600 (score of 250 on computerized exam) is required; scores should be reported directly to Virginia Commonwealth University.

The program of study necessary to be considered for admission to the professional Doctor of Physical Therapy program must include a minimum of the following subject areas and credits:

Biological sciences – 12 credit hours including laboratory experiences

  • Must include four credit hours of college-level biology
  • Must include four credit hours of anatomy and four credit hours of human physiology, or eight credit hours of anatomy/physiology (An exercise physiology course is not an acceptable substitute for a human physiology course.)
  • Cell biology and histology highly recommended but not required

Chemistry – eight credit hours including laboratory experiences

Mathematics – three credit hours (must be in pre-calculus or a more advanced mathematics course)

Physics – eight credit hours of general physics with laboratory (Courses that emphasize mechanics, electricity, heat and light are highly recommended.)

Psychology – six credit hours (One introductory course and one course in human growth and development or abnormal psychology is required.)

Statistics – three credit hours

In order to complete the total requirements, students are encouraged to elect courses from the following categories: computer science, embryology, histology, cell biology, comparative anatomy, kinesiology, exercise physiology, foreign languages and courses in physical education dealing with an analytical approach to human movement or motor learning.

Students must also present a minimum of 45 volunteer hours in at least two physical therapy practice settings.

Students are required to have current CPR certification.

One of the three required letters of recommendation must be from a physical therapist.

Degree requirements

In addition to general VCU Graduate School graduation requirements, every professional physical therapy program student must maintain a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. At the end of each semester, the faculty reviews the academic performance of all students. All students must have a GPA of 3.0 by the end of the second academic year in order to matriculate into PHTY   680  in the third academic year. Physical therapy students must complete all clinical education experiences to the satisfaction of the clinical and academic faculty.

Under no circumstances are physical therapy students permitted to participate in graduation ceremonies if they have not satisfactorily completed all the requirements of the professional physical therapy program curriculum.

Curriculum requirements

IPEC   501Foundations of Interprofessional Practice1
PHTY   501Gross Anatomy (Physical Therapy)7
PHTY   502Kinesiology4
PHTY   503Applied Exercise Physiology3
PHTY   505Applied Microscopic Anatomy for Physical Therapy4
PHTY   506Functional Neuroanatomy4
PHTY   508Orthopaedic Physical Therapy I6
PHTY   510Rehabilitation I4
PHTY   512Professional Aspects of Physical Therapy2
PHTY   520Clinical Education I3
PHTY   531Evidence-based Practice Concepts2
PHTY   537Rehabilitation II3
PHTY   609Clinical Biomechanics3
PHTY   615Pharmacology (Physical Therapy)1
PHTY   621Therapeutic Agents4
PHTY   623Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy3
PHTY   624Clinical Problem-solving I2
PHTY   626Lifespan I6
PHTY   627Lifespan II2
PHTY   640Neurologic Physical Therapy6
PHTY   644Orthotics and Prosthetics2
PHTY   646Clinical Medicine2
PHTY   648Orthopaedic Physical Therapy II6
PHTY   650Clinical Education II8
PHTY   651Professional Issues in Physical Therapy2
PHTY   654Clinical Problem-solving II1
PHTY   661Administration and Management in Physical Therapy2
PHTY   670Clinical Integration of Physical Therapy Concepts2
PHTY   674Clinical Problem-solving III1
PHTY   676Comprehensive Study of Physical Therapy Practice2
PHTY   680Clinical Education III8
PHTY   695Clinical Education IV16
Total Hours122

Total graduate credit hours required (minimum) 122

Sample plan of study

Summer semester
Prior to year one  
PHTY   501 Gross Anatomy (Physical Therapy) (Physical Therapy) 7
 Term Hours: 7
P1 year
Fall semester
IPEC   501 Foundations of Interprofessional Practice 1
PHTY   502 Kinesiology 4
PHTY   503 Applied Exercise Physiology 3
PHTY   505 Applied Microscopic Anatomy for Physical Therapy 4
PHTY   510 Rehabilitation I 4
PHTY   531 Evidence-based Practice Concepts 2
PHTY   615 Pharmacology (Physical Therapy) 1
 Term Hours: 19
Spring semester
PHTY   506 Functional Neuroanatomy 4
PHTY   508 Orthopaedic Physical Therapy I 6
PHTY   520 Clinical Education I 3
PHTY   537 Rehabilitation II 3
PHTY   623 Cardiopulmonary Physical Therapy 3
 Term Hours: 19
Summer semester
PHTY   512 Professional Aspects of Physical Therapy 2
 Term Hours: 2
P2 year
Fall semester
PHTY   609 Clinical Biomechanics 3
PHTY   621 Therapeutic Agents 4
PHTY   624 Clinical Problem-solving I 2
PHTY   648 Orthopaedic Physical Therapy II 6
PHTY   661 Administration and Management in Physical Therapy 2
 Term Hours: 17
Spring semester
PHTY   626 Lifespan I 6
PHTY   627 Lifespan II 2
PHTY   640 Neurologic Physical Therapy 6
PHTY   644 Orthotics and Prosthetics 2
PHTY   646 Clinical Medicine 2
 Term Hours: 18
Summer semester
PHTY   650 Clinical Education II 8
 Term Hours: 8
P3 year
Fall semester
Block 2-8 weeks  
PHTY   651 Professional Issues in Physical Therapy 2
PHTY   654 Clinical Problem-solving II 1
PHTY   670 Clinical Integration of Physical Therapy Concepts 2
PHTY   676 Comprehensive Study of Physical Therapy Practice 2
Block 2-8 weeks  
PHTY   680 Clinical Education III 8
 Term Hours: 15
Spring semester
PHTY   674 Clinical Problem-solving III 1
PHTY   695 Clinical Education IV 16
 Term Hours: 17
 Total Hours: 122

Graduate program director
Mary S. Shall, P.T., Ph.D.
Professor and chair, Department of Physical Therapy
Email: msshall@vcu.edu
Phone: (804) 828-0234

Additional contact
Melissa Lee
D.P.T. admissions coordinator
Email: mlee27@vcu.edu
Phone: (804) 828-0234

Program website: sahp.vcu.edu/departments/pt/prospective-students/dpt-professional-degree