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Due to unhealthy air quality, all Samuel Merritt University campuses will be closed through Sunday, November 25. We plan to re-open all campuses on Monday, November 26.

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. In the Patient/Client Management course series, students will learn to perform a PT examination and evaluate the findings to formulate a diagnosis, prognosis, and plan of care, and to provide interventions for patients with problems commonly encountered in physical therapy. Emphasis is placed on the development of fluid, proficient psychomotor skills used in practice. Students will also use evidence to inform practice demonstrating increasing levels of critical analysis and decision making. Content in the course series Patient/Client Management; Functional Anatomy, Biomechanics and Kinesiology; and Pathology and Medical Management is coordinated each trimester. 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 during trimester 9.

The clinical education portion of our curriculum prepares future clinicians for a variety of clinical settings. Our placements include experiences in the greater San Francisco Bay Area, with some placements throughout California and the United States also available, and with clinical partner facilities who are familiar with our program's curriculum which optimizes the connection between the students and their clinical instructor. At SMU, clinical experiences are integrated throughout the program with each placement being specific to the setting and/or patient populations students are currently learning about. This optimizes the application of material learned in the classroom to the real patients in the clinic. Another hallmark of our curriculum is that while the national average is 31 weeks of full time clinical placement, at SMU we place our students in 41 weeks of full time clinical rotations to maximize application and interaction with real world patients. We encourage you to explore our clinical education curriculum and how it sets SMU apart from other DPT programs.

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

Year One

FALL (TRIMESTER 1)  
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
SPRING (TRIMESTER 2)  
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
SUMMER (TRIMESTER 3)  
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

FALL (TRIMESTER 4)  
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
SPRING (TRIMESTER 5)  
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  
SUMMER (TRIMESTER 6)  
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

FALL (TRIMESTER 7)  
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
SPRING (TRIMESTER 8)  
Students are continuously enrolled in PT 704 Capstone IV from Fall (Trimester 7)  
PT 766 Internship (22 weeks)  
SUMMER (TRIMESTER 9)  
Complete internship  
OPTIONAL ELECTIVES  
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

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