Introduction: Various curriculum models for Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) education exist across the country. The purpose of this study was to provide an updated description of the Early Assurance (EA) program model, including administrative variables for institutional leaders to consider. This descriptive study may help equip students to choose an educational program that suits their desires and enable institutions to consider models that fit their needs given their typical admission draw, the local environment, student debt, and resources available. Applications to DPT programs are on the decline while there continues to be an expansion of programs. Institutions are looking for innovative models to address the changing landscape of higher education. Methods: An electronic survey was deployed to all Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accredited DPT programs and contained 33 multiple-choice and free text questions. Responses were received from 30 EA programs and 60 programs without EA (non-EA). Quantitative data were reported in percentages and means, and a thematic analysis was used to determine themes from free text responses. Results: Admission criteria, progression criteria, majors leading to the DPT degree, and management of admissions processes varied across the programs. Four themes emerged from the non-EA programs regarding why they do not offer an EA pathway. Seventeen (28% of respondents) indicated they are now reviewing and considering an EA pathway. Conclusion: A variety of pathways leading into DPT graduate programs exist and may benefit students. Specifically, these variations may allow students to choose a program that fits their particular needs. The results of the study may inform prospective students who can utilize this information to ask more specific questions as they consider DPT programs. Moreover, as many allied health programs have accelerated pathways to the terminal degree, institutions can utilize these findings to inform decisions about EA programs and how these programs may address declines in admissions and retention

Author Bio(s)

Kimberly Coleman--Ferreira PT, PhD is the Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at Andrews University.

Ivan Mulligan PT, DSc, ATC, CSCS is the Chair of the Department of Physical Therapy at West Virginia University.

Lora Packel PT, PhD is the Chair and Director of PT Accreditation at Saint Joseph's University


We thank Dr. Michael Fink PT, DSc for his contributions to the study.



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