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. 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. Applicants are encouraged to complete all prerequisite courses prior to the application deadline. However, up to three prerequisite courses may be taken during the fall and spring of the application cycle, including a maximum of two prerequisite courses after the fall term. All prerequisite courses must be completed prior to enrollment in the program. Applicants without a strong science background should take additional science courses to demonstrate an ability to succeed in science-based coursework.  No prerequisite course may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis, except between spring 2020 and spring 2022.

Degree and GPA

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. We consider the following GPAs as a part of our admissions process - overall undergraduate, last 60 semester units, prerequisite course, and science.  We recommend a minimum GPA of 3.0.

Required Prerequisite Courses

Title Units
General Chemistry with laboratory (1 Year) No survey courses 8
General Physics with laboratory (1 Year) No survey courses 8
General Biology with laboratory (1 year) 8
Human or Comparative Anatomy with laboratory* 3
Human Physiology with laboratory* 4
Abnormal Psychology 3
Introduction to Statistics 3

* Students taking combined anatomy/physiology courses must complete two semesters or three quarters of work.

Highly Recommended Courses (not required)

Title Units
Biomedical Ethics 3
Organic Chemistry 3
Motor Learning or Motor Control 3
Developmental Psychology or Motor Development 3
Neurosciences/Neuroanatomy 3-6
Exercise Physiology 3
Structural or Anatomical Kinesiology 3

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are required from three individuals who personally know the applicant and their abilities. At least one letter must be from a licensed physical therapist. Instructors of basic science coursework, health professionals, or employers are suggested for the other two. Letters must be submitted through PTCAS by the application deadline.


Official transcripts must be sent directly to PTCAS for your application to be verified and finalized.  We encourage you to send ALL official transcripts from every US and Canadian college and university attended to PTCAS by September 1. 

Clinical Experience

All applicants must be able to demonstrate understanding of the physical therapy profession by completing a minimum of 50 clinical observation hours (paid or volunteer) under the direct supervision of a licensed physical therapist.  These hours can be completed in one or more physical therapy settings (e.g., outpatient, inpatient, rehab).

Additional Criteria

As a part of our holistic admissions review process, we consider an applicant’s experiences, both in the academic environment and beyond it. We review each applicant’s responses to our essay prompts, as well as extra-curricular involvement during an applicant’s collegiate career. That can include, for example, intercollegiate athletics participation, work experience, research experience, or leadership roles in organizations. A successful application does not require those life experiences, but they are additional factors that can strengthen an application beyond the academics and observation hours.

Application Process

Students must submit two applications, which are submitted separately

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

Both applications are accessible at The deadline for both applications is October 1, 2024 (11:59 pm Eastern Time for PTCAS and 11:59 pm Pacific Time for the UCSF Supplemental Application).  No extension of the deadline will be granted.

Following a preliminary evaluation, a selection of applicants will be invited to interview. The interview is a required part of the application process.  Following the interview, 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 must complete the GRE analytical writing section prior to enrollment. 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