What is Physical Therapy?
Physical therapists (PTs) are licensed health care professionals who diagnose and oversee the management of patients of all ages in order to improve their physical and functional abilities. They help individuals maintain optimal health and fitness, and prevent the onset or progression of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to disease, disorders and other conditions.
Physical therapists practice in a wide variety of settings:
- Private practices
- Acute care hospitals
- Hospital inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation centers
- Skilled nursing facilities
- Sub-acute facilities
- Patients' homes
- Schools, universities, and research settings
- Emergency rooms
- Fitness and sports training centers
- Office and industrial workplaces
In order to practice as a physical therapist, one must graduate from an accredited physical therapy program, pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) and be licensed in his/her given state(s).
Physical therapists often pursue professional development opportunities, including post-professional degrees (e.g., PhD, DSc, MPH). They can complete clinical residencies in many specialties, including orthopedic, neurologic, pediatric, sports, geriatric, cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiologic and women's health.
American Physical Therapy Association (APTA)
Click the links below for more information from the American Physical Therapy Association.
UW-Madison Physical Therapy Program
The UW-Madison Physical Therapy Program was founded in 1926 and, in 1929, became one of the first three physical therapy curricula in the United States to receive accreditation from the American Physical Therapy Association.
The PT Program is a three-year (includes summers) free-standing program in the School of Medicine and Public Health (SMPH), and offers a professional Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. A class of 40 students begins once a year in early June. The class of 2021 will start June 1, 2018.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program capitalizes on its world-class location:
The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program works with numerous clinics in Madison for off-site labs and to bring clinicians and patients into the Program's facilities. In addition to clinics, students travel to schools, fitness clubs, the Waisman Center for children with disabilities, and Central Wisconsin Center, a residential facility for people with developmental disabilities. Informal shadowing experiences take place with faculty at UW Health's University Hospital, the Veteran's Administration Hospital, University Health Services, and the UW Athletic Training Room.
UW-Madison is a major research institution with exemplary library resources and campus support services. Faculty members collaborate with other departments and other schools such as the College of Engineering, and students can study under the direction of research mentors, participate in interdisciplinary research projects, and attend research seminars and clinical conferences.
Our reputation as one of the top universities in the country attracts outstanding instructors, researchers, staff and students. We invite you to learn more about student life at our diverse and exciting campus. UW-Madison has a rich tradition of educational excellence.
School of Medicine and Public Health
The Doctor of Physical Therapy Program's location in the School of Medicine and Public Health enables cooperative teaching arrangements and interdisciplinary programming with students from numerous health care professional programs. The School of Medicine and Public Health also gives students access to facilities such as Ebling Library, the Clinical Simulation Program and the Clinical Teaching Assessment Center for standardized patients.
The clinical faculty with whom we work are top-notch! Faculty members are cohesive, collaborative and student-focused. Faculty are professionally involved locally, nationally and internationally, and facilitate student involvement at professional conferences, student conclaves and state legislative days.
We have many areas of expertise. Faculty members hold Clinical Specialist certifications in Geriatrics, Pediatrics, Neurology, Orthopedics, and Sports. Other areas of expertise are biomechanics, business administration, clinical medicine, education, ethics, manual therapy, muscle physiology, occupational medicine, oncology, public health, Tai Chi, vestibular rehabilitation, and gender health.
We are involved in the campus community. Various faculty members have joint appointments in Biomedical and Industrial Systems Engineering and the School of Medicine and Public Health Departments of Orthopedics & Rehabilitation, Medicine, and Family Medicine and Community Health. Faculty also work with UW Athletics and Student Health Services.
The UW-Madison DPT Program consistently attracts high-quality students who score 100 percent on the National Physical Therapy Examination. Our students are described by employers as professional, well-rounded, empathetic, patient advocates, professionally involved, able to accept feedback, lifelong learners and critical thinkers.
A six-month post-graduation employment survey shows our graduates have 100 percent employment and our program graduation rate is 99 percent. In its most recent report, U.S. News and World Report ranked our program in the top 30 in the nation.
Our students participate in many outreach and fundraising activities, ranging from program-specific endeavors to interdisciplinary efforts with medical students and students from other disciplines.
One of the UW-Madison Doctor of Physical Therapy Program's greatest strengths is its extensive and loyal alumni base.