The Clinical Doctorate (or “DPT”) Becomes the Only Degree Conferred by CAPTE-Accredited Educational Institutions.

Members of the first class to complete the DPT program at Creighton University in July 1996 proudly wear their doctoral hoods, stripes, and tassles in the signature teal blue of the physical therapy doctoral degree. From left to right: J. Bradley Barr, Andrew Bartek, Michelle Steinhagen, Darin White, Brian Barney, and Russell Parker. Source: Woods EN. "The DPT: What It Means for the Profession," PT Magazine, May 2001, 9(5): 36-43.

Physical therapy education has changed dramatically over the decades. When the profession began, physical therapists (PTs) earned a bachelor’s degree in another closely related field and then obtained a certificate in physical therapy. As time went on, the profession created and adopted the entry-level physical therapy bachelor’s degree. Later, education programs adopted the postbaccalaureate degree, primarily the master’s degree, as the highest entry-level degree in the field. And in 1996, the Creighton University, the first professional doctor of physical therapy program in the nation, graduated its first class of students. Adoption of the DPT recognized that the complexity of patient needs requires a greater understanding of how to treat an individual, one that comes with a doctorate-level education, and so in January 2016 the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) made the DPT the required degree for all of its accredited entry-level physical therapist education programs.

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