The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a postbaccaluareate degree conferred upon successful completion of a doctoral level professional (entry-level) or postprofessional education program. The specific nomenclature "DPT" is not a substitute or alternative for the physical therapist clinical designator "PT."
The "professional" DPT is the degree conferred upon successful completion of a doctoral level physical therapist professional (entry-level) education program. This program prepares the graduate to enter the practice of physical therapy.
The "transition" DPT is the degree conferred upon successful completion of a postprofessional physical therapist education program. The "transition" DPT is intended for practicing clinicians and typically offers a didactic and, in some cases, a clinical augmentation that is deemed necessary to meet current and future expectations for physical therapy practice. This augmentation (knowledge, skills, and behaviors) is defined by the difference in content between a practicing clinician's entry-level education (whatever the year of graduation) and current entry-level education that has not been otherwise acquired through continuing education or specialization. As of April 2000, Creighton University, University of Southern California, and University of St. Augustine offer postprofessional "transition" DPT programs. Other "transition" DPT programs are in various stages of development.
The "advanced clinical science" DPT is one of several degrees conferred by institutions upon successful completion of a postprofessional physical therapist education program. This program is intended to provide an experienced clinician with advanced knowledge, behaviors, and clinical skills, usually in a specific specialty area. These programs may include specialization, certification, or clinical residencies. Although there are many postprofessional "advanced clinical science" doctoral programs, very few use the "DPT" degree nomenclature; in fact, some postprofessional "advanced clinical science" doctoral programs have dropped the "DPT" nomenclature in favor of less confusing alternatives (eg, DPTSc, DHSc, etc.).