Physical Therapy

Doctor of Physical Therapy

Graduate College | Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

St. Kate’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program enables you to be a highly competent, ethical, evidence-based clinician prepared to lead and influence within the profession of physical therapy, the healthcare environment, and the broader global community.

Our physical therapy doctoral graduates enter one of the fastest growing areas in healthcare with the ability to practice in a broad range of inpatient, outpatient, and community-based settings, working to promote environments and social structures that support optimal health

Program Details

Format: Weekdays on our Minneapolis campus (through 2020) and St. Paul campus (starting 2021)

Completion time: 33 months

Credits: 118

Cost per credit (2019–2020): $842

Start: Fall

Many graduate students are eligible for financial aid, usually in the form of student loans, employer tuition benefits, or scholarships.

Students are encouraged to research scholarships available through the physical therapy local or national organization, the Marilyn S. Woods Memorial Scholarship, or the DPT Program Endowed Scholarships.

All students accepted into the graduate program will be considered for a limited number of DPT scholarships from St. Catherine University.

Explore the courses

Sample plan of study

DPT Student Handbook 2019-20

A Transformative Learning Environment

Our innovative curriculum prepares you to think and reason in a clinical environment. You’ll take one course at a time, focusing on a specific physical therapy practice setting. Each courses’s content is organized to integrate the basic medical and behavioral sciences with clinical application and practice issues.

Our student-centered, holistic approach to physical therapist practice allows you to learn in-context, building on knowledge from a strong educational foundation and 40 weeks of full-time clinical experience. In addition, you’ll choose between local, national, and international service learning opportunities that allow you to take an active role in providing health-related services to underserved populations.

Why DPT Students Choose St. Kate's

The St. Catherine University Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program has an innovative curriculum that prepares students to think and reason in a clinical environment. Unique feature of this innovative curriculum include:

  • Students take one course at a time, approximately 4 to 7 weeks in length
  • Courses are focused on a specific physical therapy practice setting (i.e. outpatient orthopaedics, neurological rehabilitation, geriatrics, acute care), rather than traditional disciplines (i.e. anatomy, neuroscience, pharmacology, etc.)
  • Course content is organized to integrate the basic medical and behavioral sciences with clinical application and practice issues
  • Multiple courses for each practice setting across the three years of the curriculum allows content to be revisited, with cases and depth of knowledge becoming increasingly complex
  • Learning methodologies include case studies, lectures, hands-on skills labs, and problem-based tutorials, stimulating self-reflection and experiential learning
  • A collaborative partnership with our Physical Therapist Assistant program provides students with a valuable understanding of the roles and responsibilities of physical therapist assistants

Our graduates report that this innovative curriculum model effectively facilitates their transition from student to clinician.

Integrated Clinical Education (ICE)

Starting in the second week of the DPT curriculum, students are given opportunities to get hands-on patient care and clinical decision-making experience. Throughout the first year, students travel on a weekly basis to clinical sites in groups of three and work directly with patients under the supervision of a PT Clinical Faculty member. These clinical sites are all located in the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

ICE clinical sites include these practice settings:

  • Acute care
  • Outpatient orthopaedic
  • Neurological
  • Sub-acute care

Clinical Education

Students participate in 40 weeks of full-time clinical experience at four clinical sites ranging from 8–11 weeks in length. These experiences occur in all major PT practice settings, including an opportunity for students to focus on a specific interest area. Students choose from a variety of clinical settings both regionally and nationally.

True to the liberal arts, student-centered focus of St. Catherine University, each DPT class entering the program in the fall is comprised of 34 students. This commitment to a small class size allows students to make deep connections with faculty and fellow students. The faculty in the DPT program are committed to excellence in the classroom and strive to foster a learning environment that will transform you from student to clinician.

There are a number of strategies used to help students become acquainted with their classmates and new learning environment. Months before the start of fall classes, every incoming student is assigned a current first-year student as their resource "buddy." This allows incoming students an opportunity to get tips on what classes are like, how to prepare for PT school and answer a variety of typical first-year questions. Students get to know their "buddies" and one another at a picnic during the first week of classes, and stay connected with learning tasks all year. We create a Facebook page for each class to allow students to exchange information about housing opportunities, extracurricular activities, and more.

Each day, students sit with a different classmate as their "learning partner" for lab practice skills and discussions. Students will partner with every classmate before the rotation begins again. In addition, students are placed in different groups for anatomy lab, self-directed tutorial learning experiences, class presentations and research projects.

Located in the heart of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, St. Catherine University’s DPT program offers opportunities to take advantage of numerous medical and clinical resources, as well as the development of ongoing professional contacts. Some examples include clinic sites for both ICE and full-time clinical experiences, attending medical grand rounds lectures and participating in field trips to product manufacturers and health fairs. In addition, the Twin Cities offers significant opportunities to experience arts, sports, recreation and shopping.

Since its inception in 1991, the program has graduated over 700 physical therapists. These graduates, with strong skills in leadership and ethics, have given the DPT program an excellent reputation in the PT community for producing quality practitioners. Encompassed in its 13 core faculty members, St. Catherine's DPT program has an extensive and diverse faculty with teaching and clinical experience, professional service, and scholarly pursuits in all areas of physical therapy practice. Their primary role is to be in the classroom directly teaching students, which contributes to an excellent faculty/student ratio. Faculty members also serve as academic advisors, guiding students through professional behavior development. Ten faculty members have Ph.D. or D.Sc. degrees, and four have certified specialist credentials. In addition, numerous clinical faculty, guest physicians and physical therapy specialists from the local community provide further classroom educational experiences.

DPT students in a demonstration
Careers in Physical Therapy

Physical therapists (PTs) work with patients of all ages and backgrounds, helping them reduce pain and improve or restore mobility. PTs also educate patients on prevention and management techniques to achieve long-term health benefits. PTs are employed in a variety of settings, such as:

  • hospitals
  • skilled nursing facilities
  • public schools
  • private clinics
  • rehabilitation centers
  • community health centers
  • research centers
  • athletic programs.

Within six months of graduation, 100% of St. Kate’s students who pass the physical therapist licensure examination are employed. The leadership development you gain as a student and the active involvement of our faculty in professional and community organizations open doors for you.

Program Accreditation

The DPT program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE).

Learn more about accreditation and program outcomes for this program

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