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A photo of SCU Founding DPT Program Director, Jacklyn Brechter, PT, DPT, Ph.D., explaining a PT technique to a student and a patient.

SCU Announces New Doctor of Physical Therapy Program

New program accepting student applications for Jan. 2024 startup

WHITTIER, CA. – (Jan. 17, 2023)Southern California University of Health Sciences (SCU) has announced the addition of a new Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) academic degree program. (Pending WSCUC and CAPTE1 approval.) The program will allow participants to earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree, and will welcome its inaugural class of 50 students on Jan. 8, 2024.

Physical Therapists (PTs) are experts in how the body moves. They identify and treat movement issues in people of all ages and abilities and from sickness, injury, or overuse; from the brain to the feet. PTs use hands-on care, education, prescribe specific exercises or activities, and current evidence available for treating movement problems. All physical therapists must be licensed by their state, in order to practice.

The DPT program will prepare students to sit for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE)1 and the California law exam administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and the Physical Therapy Board of California (PTBC). The curriculum is mapped to the licensure (NPTE) exam and embeds exam prep questions throughout courses to prepare students for NPTE success, which is necessary for clinical practice as a physical therapist. Graduates will be able to obtain physical therapy licensure in any state where they want to work. All states require a jurisprudence (law) exam and students opting to practice in other states will need to determine those state requirements.

According to O*Net and Bureau of Labor Statistics 2021 wage data, PTs can expect to earn an average annual wage of $103,500 in California. Careers in Physical Therapy are expected to grow by 19% through 2030, according to O*Net and Bureau of Labor Statistics data. According to U.S. News & World Report Best Jobs rankings, Physical Therapy is ranked as the #10 Best Healthcare Job, and #28 out of the 100 Best Jobs.

The addition of the DPT Program at SCU helps address Southern California’s growing needs for expanded healthcare services. “Physical Therapists are a crucial part of the integrative team approach to delivering whole-person care as they play a critical role in the transition of acute care to the post-acute care setting,” said SCU President John Scaringe, DC, EdD. “Numerous healthcare settings need physical therapy support, from outpatient facilities focusing on orthopedics, sports and neurorehabilitation; to inpatient facilities focusing on acute care such as the emergency departments, intensive care units (ICU), skilled nursing facilities, and inpatient rehabilitation.

The DPT program requires completion of 119 credit hours in 8 consecutive terms over two years and eight months. The program emphasizes the clinical application of learning from day one, integrating basic sciences and movement sciences to provide foundational knowledge used to shape clinical decision-making.  Clinical application starts immediately in courses and with integrated clinical experiences in terms 1-3, with SCU Health.

SCU’s unique hybrid curriculum structure combines 37% online interactive lectures with 63% on-campus and full time experiential learning. The blended program is full-time with all laboratory/skills classes scheduled in two consecutive days weekly to allow for retention and building of skills as well as efficient commuting.

A clinical framework (CF) for the DPT Program was developed to guide learning. The CF describes the physical therapy tasks and activities such as completing patient interviews; performing examinations; developing and implementing plans of care; etc. These CF tasks are linked to every course and module to provide a continuous link between the application of knowledge the clinical reason for learning.

A headshot of SCU Founding DPT Program Director, Jacklyn Brechter, PT, DPT, Ph.D.SCU Founding DPT Program Director, Jacklyn Brechter, PT, DPT, Ph.D., says that “SCU’s DPT program takes a modern approach to teaching and learning in physical therapy. Our mission is to develop competent, caring, professional Doctors of Physical Therapy, who are able to thrive as integrative healthcare team members within a learning environment focused on inclusion and imbued with kindness, integrity, and determination. This means whole-person, integrative health, from a DPT movement system perspective. We aim to accomplish this in a learning environment in which students thrive.”

Dr. Brechter was appointed as Founding Program Director in September 2021 to build the program after the SCU Board of Trustees approved development of the program.

“There will be multiple care settings, including SCU Health, for clinical rotations throughout the community” said Dr. Brechter. “Our interdisciplinary approach and early clinical practice will ensure that SCU is developing caring, exceptionally competent professionals in the field of Physical Therapy.”

The SCU DPT Program is seeking accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) and is pending WASC Senior College & University Commission (WSCUC) approval. The program will submit an Application for Candidacy to CAPTE on June 1, 2023, which is the formal documentation used by CAPTE to review the program. The accreditation process, which takes more than two years, is designed to start before the first class of students enters the program and completed as the first class graduates from the program. Full accreditation is anticipated by 2026. Full details are accessible on the DPT Program Accreditations, Exams & Licensures page.

Applications are open through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS) for the inaugural cohort startup which begins Jan. 8, 2024. The SCU DPT Program will have a holistic admission process that considers academics, as well as other categories of strength including personal traits, skills, background characteristics, as well as values that align with the DPT program and SCU. All decisions on holistic admissions will be made using a custom rubric. Program faculty and the Program Director will determine candidate qualifications both on their applications and during interviews.

Interviews will be by invitation, based on PTCAS applications. Invitations to interview will be sent to those with applications that are strong in all areas of holistic admissions, including academics, personal traits, and skills and background characteristics. All interviews will be completed online.

For questions on the application process, contact Erick De La Rosa, MBA, SCU Associate Vice President of Admissions, at (562) 902-3377, or erickdelarosa@scuhs.edu. Visit the SCU Admissions page for full details.



1 Graduation from a physical therapist education program accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), 3030 Potomac Ave., Suite 100, Alexandria, Virginia 22305-3085; phone: 703-706-3245; accreditation@apta.org is necessary for eligibility to sit for the licensure examination, which is required in all states. Southern California University of Health Sciences is seeking accreditation for a new physical therapist education program from CAPTE. The program is planning to submit an Application for Candidacy, which is the formal application required in the pre-accreditation stage, on June 1, 2023. Submission of this document does not assure that the program will be granted Candidate for Accreditation status. Achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status is required prior to implementation of the professional phase of the program; therefore, no students may be enrolled in professional courses until Candidate for Accreditation status has been achieved. Further, though achievement of Candidate for Accreditation status signifies satisfactory progress toward accreditation, it does not assure that the program will be granted accreditation.

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