Doctor of Physical Therapy

Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program

Students planning to become a physical therapist apply to the Entry Level DPT Program. This is a three-year program (36 months) including 34 weeks of full-time clinical experiences. The DPT Program is accredited by the APTA Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). It has also been approved by the University of California, California State University, California Post-Secondary Education Committee (CPEC) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC).

This program is designed to prepare scholarly clinicians, educators, collaborative clinical researchers, administrative managers, and community leaders. The program accepts 50 students and requires 36 months of study (including summers). The curriculum is built on a strong theoretical foundation in basic, medical and applied sciences. Critical thinking and clinical reasoning are woven into all aspects of the program and creative problem-solving skills are developed to work with patients to mitigate disability, optimize function and maintain positive health.

Courses are held at San Francisco State University and the University of California, San Francisco campuses. Clinical experiences occur at affiliated sites throughout California. Graduates are well prepared to pass the State Licensing Examination and are considered top applicants for positions in a variety of physical therapy venues.

Career Outlook

The career outlook for physical therapists is very good with graduates employed in acute and rehabilitation hospitals, private practice, outpatient clinics, schools, community agencies, and academic programs.

Entry Level Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Admission Requirements to Program

Fifty students are admitted to the DPT program each June. Applicants must hold a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited institution and meet all general admissions requirements for graduate study at both San Francisco State University and the University of California, San Francisco. Although any undergraduate major is acceptable, for students in the initial stages of undergraduate preparation, a major in kinesiology or the biological sciences tends to be the most direct route into a physical therapy program. All applicants must have completed the program prerequisites before entry. Applicants should complete all prerequisite courses prior to the application deadline.  Two prerequisites may be in progress or planned after the application deadline, but they must be completed by enrollment in the program.  Students taking combined anatomy/physiology courses must complete two semesters or three quarters of work. Applicants without a strong science background should take additional science courses to demonstrate an ability to succeed in science-based coursework.  Any online course MUST be approved before it can be used to fulfill a prerequisite requirement.  No prerequisite course may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis.

Required Basic Prerequisite Courses

Title Units
General Chemistry with laboratory (1 Year) No survey courses 10
General Physics with laboratory (1 Year) No survey courses 8
Human or Comparative Anatomy with laboratory 3
Human Physiology with laboratory 4
General Microbiology or Related Upper Division Biology course 3

Social/Psychological Sciences

Title Units
Abnormal Psychology 3

Applied Sciences

Title Units
Introduction to Statistics 3

Highly Recommended Courses

Title Units
Biomedical Ethics 3
Organic Chemistry 3
Motor Learning or Motor Control 3
Developmental Psychology or Motor Development 3
Neurosciences/Neuroanatomy 3
Exercise Physiology 3
Structural or Anatomical Kinesiology 3

To be eligible for admission consideration, students must meet the following criteria:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution.
  • Meet the Graduate School requirements of the University of California and the California State University. More specifically, students must have an overall baccalaureate GPA of 3.0 or above and an overall GPA of 3.0 for the last 60 semester/90 quarter units.
  • A 3.0 GPA or above in college coursework in the basic sciences including the prerequisites specified above.
  • The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) General Test is now optional and does not disqualify an applicant for missing GRE test scores. Applicants may opt in to include their GRE scores with their application. Strong GRE scores have the potential to bolster an applicant’s academic metrics, but lack of GRE scores will not count against an application.

    Scores must be no more than five years old. In order to be competitive, we recommend applicants score at the 50th percentile on both the verbal and quantitative reasoning sections of the GRE exam. A score of 4.0 on the analytical writing section is also suggested. Applicants are encouraged to retake the exam if they score below the recommended minimums. If an applicant submits multiple GRE scores, the overall best score from each section is counted. Scores must be submitted to PTCAS program code #7591 U CA San Francisco Phys Therapy no later than the application deadline.

    Scores must be sent to code # 7591. DO NOT send scores to Institution Codes 4840 or 4683. GRE scores sent to a code other than #7591 will not be counted.

    For applicants with limited funds, please check the ETS GRE Fee Reduction Program site for information on fee reduction certificates.

  • Be able to demonstrate understanding of the work and profession of physical therapy, gained through paid or volunteer experience (minimum of 100 hours) in a variety of settings under the supervision of a physical therapist.
  • Supply three strong letters of recommendation regarding potential to complete the program and personal compatibility with physical therapy as a profession. At least one letter must be from a physical therapist.  Letters must be submitted through PTCAS by the application deadline.
  • ALL official transcripts from every US and Canadian college and university attended must be mailed directly to PTCAS.  Applicants are encouraged to mail transcripts by September 1.

Application Process

Students must submit two applications, which are submitted separately but in parallel. Application materials consist of:

  1. The Centralized Physical Therapy Application (PTCAS), and
  2.  The UCSF Supplemental Physical Therapy Application.

Both applications are accessible at The deadline for both applications is October 1 (midnight PST) of the year prior to desired entry.

Following a preliminary evaluation, a selection of applicants will be invited to interview. The interview is a required part of the application process.  Following an interview and an assessment of writing skills, 50 students will be accepted for admission to the physical therapy program. Once accepted into the program, students will then complete an online application for admission to SF State.

Written English Proficiency Requirement

Level One

Students must meet the first level of proficiency in written English as a condition of admission to the physical therapy program. Students may demonstrate written proficiency through one of the following:  personal statements, application essays, a score of at least a 4.0/6.0 on the GRE Analytic Writing section.

For international students, written English proficiency may be demonstrated through a score of at least 4.5/6.0 on the essay test of the paper-based [PBT] TOEFL (a minimum score of 24/30 on the Writing section of the Internet-based test [IBT] TOEFL); or a score of at least 6.5/9.0 on the IELTS writing test.

Students who do not meet any of the aforementioned standards will complete, with a B or above, a Level One writing course identified by the program in their first year of enrollment in the graduate program.

Level Two

The second level of written English proficiency is demonstrated through course projects involving written manuscripts during years one and two of the program, and the culminating experience project during the student's final year in the program.

Advancement to Candidacy

Students are advanced to candidacy based on a Qualifying Assessment that consists of:

  1. overall 3.0 GPA in academic coursework;
  2. satisfactory performance on all practical exams in clinical coursework;
  3. satisfactory performance in all clinical experiences as judged by meeting all required milestones on the Clinical Performance Index; and,
  4. a score of 80% or better on each of three clinically based, board style examinations that evaluate critical thinking and problem-solving.

Culminating Experience

Students research and write an in-depth, evidence-based review of a clinical problem following the criteria established in PT 209 and PT 910 courses. The manuscripts must be prepared in a publication-ready journal format as well as presented orally to an audience of faculty and peers.

Program Learning Outcomes

  1. 1.1 Program will offer models of best practice in clinical care, clinical instruction, and outreach/service to community.
    1.2 Students will practice patient-centered care and participate in outreach and service to the community, striving to improve access, equity, and quality of treatment and education, with emphasis on communities of need.
  2. 2.1 Program will be innovative and forward-thinking while remaining aligned with ACAPT best practices.
    2.2 Students will develop their professionalism, clinical skills, and unique abilities.
  3. 3.1 Program will create and support opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to grow their areas of expertise, increase their use of evidence-based practices, and engage in research and dissemination.
    3.2 Students will develop an appreciation for and engage in research.
  4. 4.1 Program will attract and support a diverse* faculty, staff, and student body, within an inclusive environment.
    4.2 Students will benefit from diversity valued by the program and will experience an inclusive learning environment.
  5. 5.1 Program, and the individuals within in it, will be recognized for advocacy, leadership, and service.
    5.2 Students will be advocates for the Physical Therapy Profession and leaders in their communities.

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Courses shown with quarter-unit values are taken at UCSF. Courses shown with semester-unit values are assigned to SF State. At SF State, courses numbering 700 or higher are graduate courses. At UCSF, courses with numbers between 100 and 199 are at the upper-division level; courses with numbers between 200 and 399 are graduate courses.

Basic and Applied Sciences

Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
ANA 207 Neuroscience 3
PT 200A Neuromusculoskeletal Anatomy 4
PT 200B/C Neuromusculoskeletal Anatomy 1
PT 204A Pathophysiology for Physical Therapists I 3
PT 204B Pathophysiology for Physical Therapists II 3
PT 205 Functional Anatomy Review 2
PT 706 Structure, Function and Motion in Physical Therapy 2

Medical Sciences

Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
PT 110 Orthopedics & Rehabilitation: Diagnosis & Treatment 2
PT 111 Neurology & Rehabilitation: Diagnosis & Treatment 3
PT 112A Motor Control Across the Life Span: Motor Behavior 1.5
PT112B Motor Control Across the Lifespan: Pediatrics 1.5
PT112C Motor Control Across the Lifespan: Geriatrics 1.5
PT 210 Radiology for Physical Therapy 2
PT 211 Pharmacology for Physical Therapy 2

Applied Social Sciences

Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
PT 214 Administration and Organization in Physical Therapy 3
PT 704 Education, Health Promotion, Wellness and Prevention in Physical Therapy 2
PT 735 Psychosocial Aspects in Rehabilitation Sciences, Part I 2
PT 736 Ecological and Organizational Issues in Rehabilitation 3
PT 737 Psychosocial Issues in Rehabilitation Science, Part II 1


Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
PT 215A Compassion, Accountability, Responsibility & Excellence I 0.5
PT 215B Compassion, Accountability, Responsibility & Excellence II 0.5
PT 216A Compassion, Accountability, Responsibility & Excellence III 0.5
PT 216B Compassion, Accountability, Responsibility & Excellence IV 0.5
PT 251A Research Design 3
PT 251B Research Design 1
PT 419A Research Seminar I 0.5
PT 419B Research Seminar II 0.5
PT 419C Research Seminar III 0.5
PT 199 Independent Study 0.5-5.0
PT 899 Independent Study 2
or PT 206 Application of Principles of Study 3

Physical Therapy Sciences

Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
PT 201A Physical Therapy Assessment I: Principles and Practice 3
PT 202 Therapeutic Modalities 1.5
PT 213 Neurological Pathokinesiology II 2
PT 218A Therapeutic Exercise: Beginning Exercise Prescription 1.5
PT 218B Therapeutic Exercise: Intermediate Exercise Prescription 1.5
PT 218C Therapeutic Exercise: Advanced Prescription and Manual Therapy 1.5
PT 218D Therapeutic Exercise: Exercise for Special Populations 1.5
PT 219A Pain Science for the Physical Therapist I 1
PT 219B Pain Science for the Physical Therapist II 1
PT 700 Multisystem Pathokinesiology 4
PT 710 Neurological Pathokinesiology I 4
PT 711 Neurological Pathokinesiology III 3
PT 741 Musculoskeletal Pathokinesiology I 4
PT 742 Musculoskeletal Pathokinesiology II 4
PT 743 Musculoskeletal Pathokinesiology III 3

Evidence-Based Practice

Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
PT 209 Evidence Based Practice in PT 3
PT 908 Professional Colloquium 1
PT 910 Evidence Based Practice 4

Clinical Care

Course Title SF State Semester Units UCSF Quarter Units
PT 207 Medical Screening for Physical Therapists 4
PT 400A Grand Rounds 1
PT 400B Grand Rounds 1
PT 400C Grand Rounds 1
PT 410A Integrated Clinical Experience I 0.5
PT 410B Integrated Clinical Experience II 0.5
PT 418 Terminal Clinical Experience 16
PT 801 First Full-Time Clinical Education Experience I 6
PT 802 Intermediate Full-Time Clinical Experience II 6