Doctor of Physical Therapy Curriculum

PTs in the classroom

The DPT curriculum is a sequential curriculum in which students use knowledge from prior coursework to build further learning and expertise as they progress through the program. Our 33-month program includes 41 weeks of full-time clinical education experiences.

SMU DPT Curriculum Length Comparisons (in weeks)
  SMU National Average
Didactic 70 88.2
Clinical Education 41 35.7
Total 111 123.3

Patient/Client Management course series

In the Patient/Client Management course series, students will learn to perform an examination and evaluate the findings to formulate a diagnosis, prognosis, and plan of care, and to provide physical therapy interventions for patients with problems with movement. Learning is focused on developing proficiency in observation, psychomotor, and clinical reasoning and decision-making skills used in practice. Students also learn to integrate current research into their decision-making, resulting in evidence-informed practice. Course content within each trimester is coordinated so that individual courses build on each other and learning in one course is reinforced in other courses.

  • Musculoskeletal courses: two in the first year and a 3rd in the final trimester
  • Neuromuscular courses: one in the second year and a 2nd in the final trimester
  • Pediatric course: one in the 2nd year
  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary course: one in the 2nd year
  • Special Topics courses: one in the 2nd year and a 2nd in the final trimester, these courses cover content specific to wounds, burns, prosthetics and amputation, persons with cancer, pelvic floor and women's health, geriatrics, and other specific diseases.
  • Complexity in Care course: this is a simulation-based course placed in the 2nd year aimed at focusing attention on management in complex situations/conditions in a variety of settings

Capstone course series

The series of Capstone courses is interspersed throughout the curriculum and guides the students in small groups with faculty mentors to work towards their culminating capstone presentation occurring at the end of the curriculum. Each year some student have their capstone project published or presented at state or national conferences. 

Clinical Education

The clinical education portion of our curriculum prepares students for practice in a varety of clinical settings.  Clinical placements include locations in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, throughout California, and some out-of-state locations.  Clinical experiences are sequenced so that the type of settings students are placed in matches the type of patient populations and practice setting they have just learned about in the classroom.  This timing optimizes the opportunities for application of material learned in the classroom to real patients in the clinic. We encourage you to explore our clinical education curriculum details.

Below is our sequential DPT curriculum. Browse course descriptions in the University Catalog.

Year One

PT 710 Clinical Foundations in Physical Therapy 3.0
PT 722 Clinical Physiology 3.5
PT 723 Gross Anatomy I 3.5
PT 724 Functional Anatomy, Biomechanics and Kinesology I 3.0
PT 727 Neuroscience I 1.0
PT 735 Exercise Prescription for Patients and Clients I 1.0
PT 741 Professional Issues in Physical Therapy 1.0
PT 755 Evidence-Based Practice I 2.0
Total units Fall Trimester I 18.0
PT 711 Patient/Client Management Musculoskeletal I 5.0
PT 725 Gross Anatomy II 2.5
PT 726 Functional Anatomy, Biomechanics and Kinesiology II 3.0
PT 732 Pathology and Pharmacology I 2.0
PT 738 Musculoskeletal Medical Management and Imaging I 1.5
PT 743 Interprofessional & Intraprofessional Communication in Healthcare 2.0
PT 761 Integrated Clinical Experience I 0.5
Total units Spring Trimester I 16.5
PT 712 Patient/Client Management Musculoskeletal II 5.0
PT 719 Physical Agents and Electrotherapy 1.0
PT 733 Pathology and Pharmacology II 1.5
PT 736 Exercise Prescription for Patients and Clients II 1.0
PT 739 Musculoskeletal Medical Management and Imaging II 1.5
PT 742 Teaching and Learning 1.5
PT 745 Behavioral and Psychosocial Factors in Health Care 2.0
PT 701 Capstone I: Introduction 0.25
PT 762 Integrated Clinical Experience II 0.5
Total units Summer Trimester I 14.25

Year Two

PT 702 Capstone II: Exploration and Planning 0.75
PT 728 Neuroscience II 2.0
PT 744 Health Care Systems and Regulatory Aspects of PT 2.0
PT 756 Evidence-Based Practice II 2.0
PT 763 Clinical Experience I 5.0
Total units Fall Trimester II 11.75
PT 705 Patient/Client Management: Complexity in Care 2.0
PT 713 Patient/Client Management Neuromuscular I 5.0
PT 714 Patient/Client Management Pediatrics 3.0
PT 729 Neuroscience III 3.0
PT 730 Medical Screening for Physical Therapists 0.5
PT 734 Pathology and Medical Management in Neurology 2.0
PT 737 Exercise Prescription for Patients and Clients III 1.0 
PT 764 Integrated Clinical Experience III 0.5
Total units Spring Trimester II 17.0  
PT 717 Patient/Client Management Cardiopulmonary 3.0
PT 703 Capstone III: Implementation 1.5
PT 715A Patient/Client Management Special Topics I 1.5
PT 765 Clinical Experience II 5.0
Total units Summer Trimester II 10.5

Year Three

PT 715B Patient/Client Management Special Topics II 1.5
PT 716 Patient/Client Management Musculoskeletal III 3.0
PT 718 Patient/Client Management Neuromuscular II 3.0
PT 746 Management of Physical Therapy Services 2.0
PT 747 Professional Issues II 1.0
PT 704 Capstone IV: Completion 2.0
Total units Fall Trimester III 12.5
Students are continuously enrolled in PT 704 Capstone IV from Fall (Trimester 7)  
PT 766 Internship (22 weeks)  
Complete Internship  
PT 781 Advanced Pediatrics (Fall, DPT III only) 2.0
PT 782 Sports Medicine (Fall, DPT III only) 2.0
PT 771 Individual Independent Study 1.0-3.0
PT 772 Group Independent Study 1.0-3.0
IPE 700 IGNITE (Interprofessional Team Practice for Error Management) 2.0

Request more information

Vestibulum id ligula porta felis euismod semper. Nullam id dolor id nibh ultricies vehicula ut id elit. Sed posuere consectetur est at lobortis. Donec sed odio dui.