DPT Technical Standards for Admission

Candidates for the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree must possess the intellectual ability to learn, integrate, analyze, and synthesize data. They must have functional use of the senses of vision, hearing, and smell, as well as unimpaired equilibrium. Their exteroceptive (touch, movement, stereognosis, and vibratory) senses must be sufficiently intact to enable them to carry out all activities required for a complete physical therapy education. Candidates must have motor function capabilities, physical endurance and the emotional health to meet the demands of entry-level physical therapy education and the demands of total patient care, which may include extended hours of instruction and time in clinic, evenings, nights, and weekends.

The candidate for the DPT degree must possess the following abilities and skills:


The ability to observe is required for demonstrations, visual presentations in lectures, and laboratories. A candidate must be able to observe patients accurately and completely, both at a distance and up close. Functional vision and somatic sensation is enhanced by a sense of smell.


Candidates should be able to speak and listen to patients in order to elicit information, perceive nonverbal communications, describe changes in mood, communicate effectively and sensitively with patients and their families, as well as instruct patients and their families. Communication in oral, written and electronic form with the health care team must be effective, efficient, and timely.

Motor function

A candidate should have sufficient motor function to elicit information from patients by palpation, auscultation, percussion, and movement of limbs. Carrying out treatment maneuvers may include exercising, lifting, transferring of patients, and assisting during ambulation, which a candidate must be able to accomplish while assuring their own safety as well as the safety of the patient. A candidate should have motor function sufficient to execute movements reasonably required to provide general care and emergency treatment. Such skills require coordination of gross and fine muscular movements, equilibrium, and sensation.

Intellectual-conceptual, integrative, and quantitative abilities

Problem solving is a critical skill demanded of physical therapists, and requires conceptual, integrative, and quantitative thinking abilities. The candidate must be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and the spatial and functional relationships of structures, and to analyze and apply this information for problem solving and decision-making. They must be able to organize, prioritize, analyze, and evaluate detailed and complex information individually, in small groups, and in clinical settings, and do so within a limited time frame.

Behavioral and social skills

A candidate must have the emotional health to fully use his or her intellectual ability, exercise good judgment, and complete all responsibilities attendant to the evaluation and treatment of patients. Candidates must be able to self-assess, accept criticism, and assume responsibility for maintaining professional behavior.

A candidate must be able to develop mature, sensitive, and effective relationships with patients, families, caregivers and colleagues. A candidate must be able to tolerate physical and emotional stress and continue to function effectively. A candidate must possess qualities of adaptability and flexibility and be able to function in an atmosphere of uncertainty. He or she must have a high level of compassion for others, motivation to serve, and integrity, and be act in a manner that demonstrates consciousness of common social values. A candidate must possess sufficient interpersonal skills to interact positively with people from all levels of society, ethnic backgrounds, and belief systems.

The faculty of the Duke University Doctor of Physical Therapy program recognizes its responsibility to present candidates for the DPT degree with knowledge, skills, and behaviors to function in a broad variety of clinical situations and to render a wide spectrum of patient care.

The responsibility for monitoring the compliance of applicants with these technical standards is primarily placed with the Admissions Committee, which is charged with selecting physical therapy students, and with DPT faculty, who advance those students to the DPT degree.