Graduate College | Henrietta Schmoll School of Health

Physical Therapy (DPT)

St. Catherine’s Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program creates a transformative learning environment, enabling 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

what can I do with a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree?

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

Within three months of graduation, 100% of St. Catherine 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.

how will I study?

St. Catherine’s 118-credit DPT program is offered in a 33-month, full-time weekday schedule. Classes meet on our Minneapolis campus, and laboratory learning takes place on our St. Paul and Minneapolis campuses.

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. The content within each course 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 experiences. In addition, you will choose between a local, national and international service learning opportunity that allows you to take an active role in providing health-related services to underserved populations.

why St. Kate's?

Our DPT students and graduates consistently say they chose St. Kate's physical therapy program for these top five reasons:

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.

There are several other unique characteristics of our DPT program that students and graduates say made it the top choice for them. They include:

Educating students to lead and influence is the centerpiece of St. Catherine University’s mission and an important part of the DPT program. Early in the first semester, students participate in the Marilyn S. Woods Leadership Symposium, which assists them in identifying their leadership strengths and passions. During the symposium, a variety of leaders in physical therapy are invited to share their leadership path and each student develops a personal leadership plan that is supported by their faculty advisor.

The leadership journey in the program is capped off with the Ethics and Leadership Summit at the end of the program. This course includes a 2-week service learning immersion experience and an integrative seminar in which students synthesize prior coursework in physical therapy practice, ethics, clinical education and service learning experiences.

Research is integrated throughout the curriculum, beginning with principles of evidence-based practice in year one, research methods and statistical analysis in year two, and culminating in professional presentation skills and application to clinical practice in year three. Students choose a research project based on their interest from a list of faculty-led projects. Students work in groups on their projects beginning in the 2nd year and complete them in the 3rd year, presenting the results on DPT Program Research Day. In addition, many students have an opportunity to present their projects at state and national PT meetings.

Examples of recent student research project areas:

  • Movement patterns in infants with Spina Bifida
  • 3-Dimensional motion analysis of the upper extremity
  • Rehabilitation in children with cancer
  • Risk factors for patellofemoral pain
  • 3-Dimensional motion analysis of the cutting maneuver
  • Movement patterns associated with a new assistive device for geriatric clients


The World Health Organization defines Interprofessional Education (IPE) as occasions when “two or more professions learn with, about, and from each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes.” These competencies are critical for future health care practitioners. As part of the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health, our DPT students have many opportunities to interact with student-peers and faculty in other health programs and develop the knowledge and skills necessary for contemporary practice. For example, DPT students interact with physician assistant students in a suture lab, occupational therapy students in a tutorial on stroke, and future nurses, social workers, occupational therapists, physician assistants, dietitians and others at an annual IPE workshop focused on healthy aging.

In addition, because our DPT and Physical Therapist Assistant programs are offered on a single campus, our DPT students can take advantage of multiple opportunities to learn from and with physical therapist assistants and physical therapist assistant students. This learning prepares our students to engage in optimal PT/PTA working relationships when they enter clinical practice.

DPT Program Diversity Statement

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) Program values and supports increasing the diversity of the physical therapy profession. The DPT Program aims to increase the diversity of our student body with diversity interpreted in a broad sense, including traits such as varied life experience (older, parents, 2nd career, etc.); 1st generation college student; undergraduate preparation from a variety of majors; racial, ethnic and religious diversity; sexual orientation; gender identity; and students with disabilities.

March 2017

The Physical Therapy Club, founded in 2006, is open to all students in the DPT and PTA programs at St. Catherine University. The purpose of the club is to promote physical therapy, including the profession’s role in health and wellness, to the University and Twin Cities communities and to provide social networking opportunities for DPT and PTA students. Examples of PT Club activities include participation in fitness challenges, development and distribution of educational materials, and engagement in service activities. For example, over the past several years, the PT Club has collected items for Bridging, a non-profit organization that improves lives by providing quality furniture and household goods to those transitioning out of homelessness and poverty.

Volunteer Opportunities

Our DPT students are active members of their communities. In addition to the service opportunities sponsored by the PT Club, students have a number of opportunities to engage in volunteer activities that contribute to the community and their education. Two such examples are participation in the Indian Health Service’s Diabetic Foot Clinic and the leading of exercise programs for primarily Somali immigrants at the Pentagon Apartments.

Service Learning

In their final year, DPT students choose between a local, national and international service learning opportunity. For two weeks, students take an active role in providing health-related services to underserved populations. Participation in one of the offered trips is mandatory for all third-year DPT students and elective for all second-year PTA students. Recent service learning experiences include:

Twin Cities
In conjunction with several local agencies, students engage in activities examining the challenges faced by the homeless population here in the Twin Cities metro area. Students immerse themselves in what it means to be homeless and the policies influencing change. Issues of poverty and health disparities are explored through experiential learning and interacting with those who have been homeless. This local immersion experience illuminates for students what many would describe as third-world health care conditions existing in our own neighborhoods.

Clarksdale, Mississippi
In collaboration with the elder leaders of the Immaculate Conception Church and Sister Manette Durand, CSJ, students engage in service-learning activities within an underserved community. The setting is an ideal one in which to explore how environmental factors such as poor housing, unsafe neighborhoods, lack of healthcare services, poverty and crime impact a person’s health and well-being. Students and faculty provide a range of services that enable students to identify sustainable options to empower the community and develop personal and professional action plans for social justice.

Santiago, Dominican Republic
In partnership with the Institute for Latin American Concerns (ILAC) in Santiago, Dominican Republic, students have an opportunity to engage in service-learning activities. They examine issues such as health disparities, marginalization, poverty and environmental conditions that limit healthful living. Students interact with Dominican physical therapy students and professionals as well as community health workers from various programs.

This service learning immersion experience culminates in presentations by each of the three groups to all faculty and students. Participants are asked to reflect on their role as a health care provider and consider, in the context of Catholic Social Teaching, options for incorporating social justice issues into their professional life. Lastly, students create a personal action plan for civic and community engagement in their communities back home.

White Coat and Student Oath Ceremony

At the end of the first DPT course, students participate in a “White Coat Ceremony,” a symbolic ceremony where students, with family and friends in attendance, declare publicly and formally their personal and professional commitment to caring for patients/clients as student physical therapists.

DPT faculty, supported by the University administration, also commit to educating and mentoring students, so that upon graduation they are prepared to fully assume their social responsibilities as moral and ethical physical therapists.

Research Day

Research Day, an event that occurs annually in January, represents the culmination of two years of student work on a group research project or individual case study. All third-year students present their research projects on this day to students, faculty, and invited guests. The day’s events also incorporate a keynote presentation by an invited speaker, a celebratory lunch, and an awards presentation recognizing scholarship recipients, as well as recipients of the Outstanding Clinical Faculty Award, Alumnae/i of the Year Award and Friend of the Program Award.


Tuition and Financial Aid

The DPT program is offered within the Graduate College through the Henrietta Schmoll School of Health.

For the 2018-19 academic year, the tuition rate for the 118-credit DPT program is $825 per credit. Tuition rates are subject to change each June 1. Additional costs for the program will include fees for student services and technology, books, etc.

Many graduate students are eligible for financial aid, usually in the form of student loans. 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.

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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DPT Degree Requirements

DPT Degree Requirements

The DPT degree includes core courses, electives and experiences to build your professional competencies.

How to Apply

How to Apply

The DPT program has specific prerequisite and admission requirements.

Faculty

Faculty

Our DPT faculty have extensive teaching and clinical experience, professional service, and scholarly pursuits in all areas of physical therapy practice.

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