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The College of St. Scholastica

Why get a transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy?

The physical therapy field maintains high standards to protect patients and ensure they receive the best possible care from well-rounded experts who are up-to-date on the latest best practices. This is why a transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy was created. It’s designed to bridge the gap between the knowledge and skills that PTs gained through their bachelor’s or master’s degree programs and current information and techniques.

St. Scholastica’s tDPT is built around the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)’s Vision 2020 recommendations and current practice to ensure that graduates are current with both educational and clinical doctoral degree standards.

What does the APTA Vision 2020 say?

It’s been nearly 20 years since the APTA published Vision 2020, a strategic plan that sets standards and goals for the future of the industry. Its main goal was that by the year 2020, all physical therapy services would be provided by doctors of physical therapy.

The APTA identified six key elements for PT professionals to help attain its vision:

  • autonomous practice — PTs are able to work independently
  • direct access — the right of all consumers to be able to attain care with a PT
  • doctor of physical therapy (DPT) and lifelong education — the educational standard for all PTs and the constant pursuit of knowledge and current best practices
  • evidence-based practice — the use of the best and most current research to back up treatment plans and decision making for clients
  • practitioner of choice — PTs are recognized as the preferred providers of care for patient issues related to movement, function and health
  • professionalism — PTs are expected to maintain the highest professional and ethical standards to ensure the best patient outcomes

Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy at St. Scholastica

If you’ve decided to pursue a transitional doctorate in physical therapy, then St. Scholastica’s fully online degree program designed for working professionals might be the right fit for you.

St. Scholastica has a long history of providing education for healthcare providers, from nurses to athletic trainers to psychologists. The College began offering an online transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program in 2007, and conferred its first degrees in 2010. Since then, more than 500 alumni have completed the program.

What is the tDPT program like?

The curriculum is based on recommendations from APTA that combine the rich, well-established knowledge and expertise of the PT community with newer requirements. It consists of six semester-long courses, which are typically completed in two years. Content areas include pharmacology, differential screening, diagnostic imaging, evidence-based practice, health policy, and professional integration.

Program outcomes closely follow APTA requirements, as graduates learn how to integrate evidence, learn about differential diagnosis and skills, and gain knowledge in clinically meaningful ways.

How long does it take to complete a tDPT?

Currently, about 40-50 students are accepted per semester (fall, spring and summer) with a flexible course plan. Most full-time working students will complete the program in two years by taking one class a semester. Each class is either 2-3 credits (16 credits total), which requires around 9-12 hours of course work per week.

The program incorporates St. Scholastica’s Benedictine values of community, respect, hospitality, stewardship and love of learning. The department boasts expert faculty members who are seasoned PT professionals and bring rich real-world experience.

St. Scholastica’s small size allows for meaningful one-on-one connections between faculty and students, yet it still has the same robust student services, such as Information Technology support and academic advisement, that can be found at larger colleges.

Program assessment reveals that Vision 2020 and supporting program outcomes are being met. Over 95% of program graduates report that they have successfully met all the following program outcomes:

  • Apply current health legislative policies and be an advocate within professional practice
  • Demonstrate critical thinking, problem solving and leadership skills required of autonomous practitioners
  • Demonstrate a commitment to the physical therapy profession including but not limited to life-long learning and advocacy for the profession and health care consumer
  • Evaluate published studies related to physical therapy practice, research, and policy integrating the findings into clinical practice
  • Integrate concepts of diagnostic imaging and pharmacology in the differential screening and comprehensive management of patients and clients
  • Synthesize communication and leadership methods to improve interprofessional collaboration

Program graduates report that St. Scholastica’s tDPT broadened their perspectives, opened new career opportunities, deepened their knowledge and re-invigorated their sense of excitement for their work.

The fully online tDPT program offers convenience and flexibility for students from numerous areas of practice both domestically and internationally. Throughout the program, a community and an affinity with the College is developed. Students feel such a strong tie to St. Scholastica that more than 50% travel to Duluth to attend their graduation ceremonies.

Learn more about St. Scholastica’s Transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy program.


American Physical Therapy Association. Vision Sentence for Physical Therapy 2020. Accessed April 22, 2020.

American Physical Therapy Association. The Preferred Curricular Model for the Transition Clinical Doctoral (t-DPT Program and Learner. Accessed April 22, 2020.