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Requirements for the Doctoral Degree, DPT

Type: University Requirements
Effective Date: 6/17/2021

Policy Summary

The policy provides guidance on the following aspects of the DPT Doctoral Degree, including definitions related to:

1. General degree requirements;
2. Requirements for a student to obtain a DPT at NAU: 

  • academic requirements; 
  • professional development requirements; 
  • application and admission/designation requirements; 
  • time parameters to complete the degree


The policy guides students, faculty, staff, and administrators in the development and provision of doctoral degrees at the university.


  • Curriculum and Assessment Office
  • Graduate Advisors
  • Graduate College
  • Graduate Deans
  • Faculty
  • IRA
  • Office of the Registrar


  • Curriculum and Assessment Office
  • Graduate Advisors
  • Graduate College
  • Graduate Deans 
  • Faculty
  • IRA
  • Office of the Registrar
  • Students


ABOR Policy


candidacy: a period in a doctoral student’s studies when they are deemed ready to undertake independent and original research resulting in a dissertation after meeting certain academic milestones
dissertation: a document presenting a student's original research and findings submitted as part of academic requirements for a doctoral degree 


The following general requirements pertain to all students pursuing the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. Additional program and discipline-specific requirements not addressed by this policy may be found in the program/department/school graduate handbook as well as the Academic Catalog

1. General Degree Requirements – Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT)

Doctoral degrees at NAU require the successful completion of a minimum of 60 units in a course of study, and many degrees require more units for completion of the degree. In addition to coursework, all doctoral degrees require their graduate students to engage in extensive and rigorous research, scholarship, practicum, and/or clinical experiences and to prove a high level of competency in their field. The Doctor of Physical Therapy is a clinical doctoral plan that emphasizes clinical experience and didactic study (lecture, reading, and observation). This degree emphasizes the development of competencies in examination, evaluation, diagnosis, applying interventions, and evidence-based practice. The DPT degree requires a minimum of 98 units. Prerequisite courses are not included in this total. The degree is designed to be completed in 28 months of full-time study. This degree plan does not require a dissertation. However, it does include an internship experience requirement equivalent to two full semesters (30 weeks). 

Individuals who wish to enter into the physical therapy profession must complete this degree, which is known as the “entry-level doctoral degree.”

2. The following requirements must be fulfilled for a student to graduate with a DPT degree:

2.A. Academic Requirements

Students must complete all courses in an approved Program of Study (POS) totaling the number of units specified for the program and meet all academic requirements and standards set by the academic unit for the doctoral program. The POS must be approved by the student’s major advisor and other appropriate academic unit administrators designated by the program. 

All graduate students must adhere to the academic requirements and criteria outlined by their program, the Graduate College, and NAU. See NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate for more detailed information. 

Graduate students must, at a minimum, meet the “Academic Requirements for Continuation in a Graduate Program” found in NAU Policy 100319: Academic Continuation, Probation, Dismissal, and Readmission - Graduate, in order to graduate. To begin the graduation process, please see NAU Policy 100334: Applying for Graduation, Graduate Students. 

2.B. Professional Development Requirement

NAU’s professional development requirement provides doctoral students the benefit and opportunity to engage in and contribute to the full spectrum of educational and professional opportunities provided by faculty and other students within their program and across the university. The Graduate College and the University Graduate Committee concur that the doctoral professional development requirement at NAU may be met in a variety of ways, some of which fit the ethos of a particular discipline or type of cohort engaged in a particular program. 

When considering appropriate standards for professional development, graduate program faculty are expected to encourage, design, provide, and monitor the professional development activities in which their doctoral students acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values appropriate to their discipline. These activities extend beyond the required coursework and may include, but are not limited to: attending and presenting at professional conferences; participation and active engagement in presentations of scholarly work, seminars, and events; assisting and engaging in various funding efforts to support research, scholarship, and creative work; and active participation in professional development opportunities offered by programs and the Graduate College. 

A minimum of 5 hours of professional development activities is required between matriculation in the program and completion of the internship experience.

Graduate program faculty have the responsibility of identifying and approving how the specific professional development requirement for their program will be met, in consultation with the dean of the Graduate College. Details regarding the DPT program’s professional development requirement are listed on the program of study and verified prior to submission of the final Program of study.

2.C. Application and Admission/Designation
Minimum Admission Requirements 

  • Baccalaureate degree with an overall GPA of at least 3.0
  • Quantitative Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score of at least 146 (550)
  • Verbal GRE score of at least 149 (440)
  • Analytical Writing GRE score of at least 3.5
  • Three letters of recommendation, with at least one from a licensed physical therapist

Before beginning the program, students must have:

  • completed approximately 36 units of undergraduate course requirements in anatomy and physiology, exercise physiology, general chemistry, physics, general psychology, statistics, and abnormal or developmental psychology. Some of these requirements may have been part of the student's bachelor's degree;
  • completed and submitted the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) application;
  • completed and submitted the Northern Arizona University Graduate College application. 

Application for and Admission to Candidacy
There is no discrete candidacy stage associated with this degree.

2.D. Time Parameters to Complete Degree

Students who are admitted to the DPT program with an earned master's degree have eight years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree. This eight-year period starts with the student's first semester of doctoral study at Northern Arizona University. If the student does not complete the degree in eight years, the student may petition the Graduate College for one extension of this time limit.

Students who start the DPT program with a bachelor's degree, have ten years to complete all requirements for the doctoral degree.


Academic Requirements

Program faculty are responsible for creating and updating graduate programs, courses, and requirements in line with discipline-specific standards and university policy; for approving updates to Programs of Study; and for approving completion of degree requirements.

The Graduate College is responsible for updating and maintaining Programs of Study, confirming academic requirements and criteria and adherence to continuous enrollment, confirming completion of degree requirements, and conferring degrees.

Office of Curriculum and Assessment is responsible for supporting program faculty in articulating and defining program and course curricula and student learning outcomes and in accurately publishing curricular requirements in the academic catalog.

Professional Development Requirement

Program faculty are responsible for identifying and approving how the specific professional development requirement for their program will be met, in consultation with the dean of the Graduate College.

Related policies:

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