Academic Experience

The full-time, three-year, residential pathway of the DPT program comprises six semesters and two summer terms. The curriculum follows a system-based format. Each semester focuses on a different system of the body.

Throughout the first two years, students learn to incorporate evidence-based practice, clinical reasoning skills and the differential diagnostic process to function as an autonomous practitioner within the health care system. The third and final year is designed to promote integration of the information and skills learned in the first two years.

At USC, we take pride in offering you varied and rich full-time clinical experiences starting in the first year of the program. The third year of the curriculum is an integrative experience that challenges students to combine and refine skills from the previous two years, and to provide effective patient care in complex circumstances.

The systems-based focuses and corresponding clinical components are as follows for each year:

Year One

– Semester 1: Foundational basic sciences and introduction to patient management
– Semester 2: Clinical management of musculoskeletal dysfunction with an integrated clinical experience
– Summer 1: Clinical management of musculoskeletal dysfunction and 6-week clinical experience

Year Two

– Semester 3: Clinical management of cardiopulmonary and medical conditions, particularly in the acute hospital setting with an integrated clinical experience
– Semester 4: Clinical management of neurologic dysfunction
– Summer 2: Differential diagnosis and 8-week clinical rotation

Year Three

– Semester 5 or 61: Full-time clinical rotations
– Semester 5 or 61: Part-time clinical rotation, and case-based instruction and lab practice courses

1 In year three, students complete one full-time clinical rotation semester and one part-time clinical rotation semester with case-based instruction and lab practice. About half of students have their part-time experience in semester 5; the other half have their part-time experience in semester 6.

Students complete a total of 44 full-time equivalent weeks of clinical experiences at USC-approved sites in the greater Los Angeles area and nationwide. The clinical education component of our academic experience is exceptional, in that experiences begin in the spring of your first year, and the number of weeks vastly exceeds the minimum requirements for PT programs. You will be exposed to up to at least six distinct placement sites in a broad spectrum of physical therapy settings.

For successful completion of the program, you must:

  • Complete all 115 units with a minimum cumulative GPA of 2.75
  • Pass all practical exams in the clinical courses
  • Meet all professional behavior standards
  • Pass all clinical experiences (a total of 44 full-time equivalent weeks)

View a full list of DPT Program Courses.

View the Residential Pathway Course Schedule

Read more about the Program Learning Objectives.