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SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University

Physical Therapy Program

The Profession

Physical therapists work to diagnose and manage movement dysfunction; restore, maintain and promote optimal physical function; promote wellness and fitness; and prevent the onset and progression of impairments, functional limitations and disabilities due to various diseases, injuries, conditions or disorders. They perform examination, evaluation, and the establishment of a diagnosis and a prognosis in order to determine the most appropriate intervention(s) for patients/clients with neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, cardiovascular/pulmonary and integumentary disorders. (Guide to Physical Therapist Practice Version 1.1).

Physical therapist intervention involves coordination, communication and documentation; patient/client-related instruction; and procedural interventions. These interventions are chosen on the basis of patient examination and re-examination findings and the goals and expected outcomes of a particular patient/client diagnostic group (Guide to Physical Therapist Practice Version 1.1).

Career Opportunities

Physical therapy is a dynamic and evolving profession. Opportunities for specialization and board certification are available and include, for example, pediatrics, cardiopulmonary, sports, orthopedics and neurology. Because of their broad range of skills, physical therapists have numerous opportunities as health-care professionals across all delivery settings, including critical and intensive care units, outpatient clinics, long-term care facilities, school systems, and the workplace. They may also work as consultants, researchers, or educators instead of, or in addition to, clinical practice.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) is a professional degree that is intended to produce the clinician or practitioner of physical therapy. The DPT is often referred to as the "clinical doctorate." The DPT has become the "expected" physical therapy degree throughout the country, with an increase in the number of accredited physical therapy programs converting from the Master's degree to the Doctor of Physical Therapy degree every few months.

In 2000, APTA's House of Delegates (HOD) endorsed the APTA Vision Statement for Physical Therapy 2020 and the Vision Sentence for Physical Therapy 2020.1 The Vision Sentence states that "by 2020, physical therapy will be provided by physical therapists who are doctors of physical therapy, recognized by consumers and other health care professionals as the practitioners of choice to whom consumers have direct access for the diagnosis of, interventions for, and prevention of impairments, functional limitations, and disabilities related to movement, function, and health." Since the endorsement of the Vision 2020 Statement and Sentence by APTA's HOD in 2000, there has been a huge proliferation of entry-level DPT degree programs throughout the U.S.

The DPT degree is the natural progression in the evolution of the physical therapy profession. The DPT degree program at SUNY Downstate will provide the physical therapist student with the necessary critical thinking and clinical decision-making skills that are required of today's physical therapists. The physical therapists of today are becoming autonomous practitioners who, when they encounter new patients, will take a thorough history and perform a systems review of the cardiovascular/ pulmonary, neuromuscular, musculoskeletal, and integumentary systems. The therapists will then perform an examination and evaluation upon which they will develop a physical therapy diagnosis, prognosis and plan of care. These physical therapists are also able to determine when a patient's condition falls outside of the scope of physical therapy practice, for which they will refer the patient to the appropriate practitioner.

Accreditation, Credentialing and Licensure

The physical therapy program at SUNY Downstate Medical Center is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 111 North Fairfax Street, Alexandria, Virginia 22314; telephone: 703-706-3245; email:; website: You may also click on the following link to verify the accreditation of SUNY Downstate's PT program by CAPTE:

Accreditation Verfification

The program is registered by the New York State Education Department. Graduates are eligible to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). All 50 states and three additional jurisdictions use the NPTE as one factor in the licensure of physical therapists. To be licensed as a physical therapist in New York State, the individual must be of good moral character, at least 18 years of age, meet education and examination requirements, and file an application with the New York State Education Department Office of the Professions.

Student Outcomes

  • Graduation rate: 90.7% (Classes of 2012-2014)
  • Licensure examination pass rate: 100% (Classes of 2016-2017)
  • Employment rate: 100% (Class of 2015)