Physical Therapy, PhD

School of Medicine

Program Description:

Our Physical Therapy Program is located within the School of Medicine at the University of New Mexico (UNM) Health Sciences Center, which is the largest academic health complex in the state of New Mexico. As a long-standing component of the UNM Health Sciences Center, the Physical Therapy Program is committed to offering an educational experience that provides the academic and clinical opportunities for individuals to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes necessary for the ethical and professionally competent practice of physical therapy.  Our program prepares students to function as autonomous professional practitioners and integral members of a health care team who are responsive to the health care needs of the individual and society at-large.  The aim of the program is to foster an attitude of responsibility and conduct that is consistent with the ethical and legal standards within the profession.  Inherent in this mission is the goal of educating leaders in physical therapy who are proficient in the areas of education, research, supervision, management, consultation, promotion of health, prevention of dysfunction and provision of care, in order to meet the needs of the citizens of New Mexico and the world.   

The UNM Physical Therapy Program is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), and our program has continually graduated excellent physical therapists since the first Physical Therapy Class of 1976.   Currently our program consists of a three year curriculum of professional course work and clinical training which leads to a clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree.  

Our entry level DPT curriculum is 36 months in length, with classes beginning in August each year.  Didactic content is presented in a uniquely integrated format.  The first year coursework emphasizes anatomy, orthopedics and evidence-based practice, and includes an 8-week orthopedic physical therapy clinical education component.  The second year focuses on various specialty areas such as neurological and cardiopulmonary disorders, pediatrics, gerontology, health promotion, and advanced manual skills.  In addition to didactic coursework in other specialty areas, the third year culminates in three final full-time clinical education rotations over a 28-week period.  Hospital and health care facilities throughout New Mexico, including rural health sites, and a limited number of facilities outside the state are utilized in the edifying clinical education experiences.  Prior to graduation, students also successfully complete and present an evidence-based capstone project under the supervision of a faculty member.  Personal attention is optimal for students in our program, since the class size of 30 is substantially smaller compared to a number of other programs.

All of the faculty members in the UNM Physical Therapy Program are committed to helping students achieve their goals of becoming excellent physical therapists.  There are 10 full-time core faculty members who have a wide variety of expertise in all areas of physical therapy. Many of the faculty have been physical therapists for more than 20 years and have extensive clinical as well as academic experience.  Core faculty are engaged in diverse areas of research and clinical practice, and there are also numerous adjunct faculty engaged in the educational mission.

Admission Requirements:

The application deadlines are in December of each year, on December 1st for the PTCAS, and on December 15th for the UNM Physical Therapy Program Application.

Students are admitted once a year, with classes beginning in August. As part of the admissions process, the UNM Physical Therapy Program utilizes the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS). Prospective students must complete an online application to the PTCAS AND submit an application to the UNM PT Program. To begin the PTCAS application process, visit the PTCAS website at The UNM Application can be downloaded by clicking here: Program Application and GPA Calculation Form . There are two required parts to the application process.

Part I. For the PTCAS: Applicants must complete the PTCAS application by December 1st, and submit required documentation by the PTCAS deadlines, including:
1) Complete Online Application 
2) Official Transcripts from all Colleges and Universities Attended
3) Three Reference Letters (2 Must be From a Licensed Physical Therapist)
4) Application Fee (Financial Assistance is available for eligible applicants through the PTCAS)

Part II. For the UNM Physical Therapy (PT) Program: Applicants must have the following materials received by the UNM Physical Therapy Program by December 15th.
1) Application for the UNM Physical Therapy Program AND Prerequisite Course Grid  with GPA Calculation Form
2) Official Transcripts from all Colleges and Universities Attended
3) Evidence of Registration for Remaining Prerequisite Course Work (If Applicable)
4) GRE Exam Scores (official record)
5) Application Fee of $50.00 (Money Order or Personal Check)

"Submit your official GRE scores to code #7670 for the Physical Therapy Program at University of New Mexico.
GRE scores for code #7670 will automatically be sent to PTCAS. Do NOT send your GRE scores to the main university
or graduate admissions code.

Please send UNM PT Program application packet to the following address:

Health Sciences Center
Physical Therapy Program
MSC 09 5230
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001

Students may submit an application packet to the UNM PT Program only if they have:

  • A degree at the bachelor’s level, or will have completed the bachelor’s degree by the end of the spring semester after application.
  • Fulfilled the prerequisite course work or will have completed the prerequisite course work by the end of the spring semester after application.
  • Taken the General Graduate Record Examination (GRE) that includes the GRE Written Assessment.
  • Met the minimum grade requirements of 3.0 GPA.

Other notes about admission:

Applicants can be certified by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education. Residents of Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon and Wyoming are eligible to apply to our program under WICHE. For more information on WICHE, please call 1-800-279-9777 or visit their website at   Although the majority of our students are residents of New Mexico, residents of other states are invited to apply.

Applicants who appear to be best qualified will be invited for an interview.  Final selection will be made from the group of candidates interviewed, and will be based on science GPA, GRE scores, written materials including letters of reference, and interview. It is recommended that applicants have adequate exposure to the profession of physical therapy through volunteer or work experience.

Reapplicants to our program must submit a new UNM PT Application form each time they apply to our program, and they must also provide updated transcripts and official GRE forms as appropriate.

The program's selection process does not discriminate against any student on the basis of gender, marital or parental status, race, color, religion, age, national origin or physical handicap.

Students with disabilities:

If you have a physical or learning disability, you are asked to self-report your educational needs prior to matriculation. Technical Standards for physical therapy students are defined by the program and are available upon request. Evaluation of the disability by a physician or other appropriate professional must be presented at the time of the report in order for accommodations to be arranged.

Information about general student services at UNM, including admissions and NM residency criteria, can be obtained by calling 1-800 CALL UNM (225-5866), or calling Financial Aid at (505) 272-0008, or accessing the UNM Current Student Page.

Preparation for admission:

# 1 Volunteer Experience: Although the program does not require a specific number of hours, most applicants have a minimum of 200 volunteer hours when they apply to the program. The program recommends that you get as much exposure to the PT profession (whether from volunteer or work opportunities) as you can via a variety of experiences in different areas of PT, so that you can positively answer the question “Is PT the profession for me?”   

# 2 Prerequisites: Admission to our program requires completion of prerequisite courses with 35 hours of specific sciences and a minimum GPA of 3.0 in the prerequisites.  Students must include proof of enrollment for any Spring courses with the application, and all prerequisite courses must be completed by May with a grade of C or better.  Final transcripts must be sent to the UNM Physical Therapy Program.  Prerequisite courses may be taken at any accredited college or university.  The following is a list of the general prerequisites, as well as specific course numbers appropriate for fulfilling these prerequisites at UNM and at Central New Mexico Community College (CNM).


General Prerequisite

UNM course

CNM course

Exercise Physiology

300-level or above (3 hrs)

Exercise Physiology PEP 326L


Anatomy & Physiology

(8 hrs) with lab

Biology 237

Biology 238

Biology 247L

Biology 248L

Biology 2210

Biology 2310

Biology 2292

Biology 2392

Chemistry (4 hrs)

Chemistry 111

Chemistry 1410/1492

Statistics (3 hrs)

Mathematics 145

Mathematics 1330

Nutrition (3 hrs)

Nutrition 244

Nutrition 2110


(8 hrs) with lab


Physics 151

Physics 152

Physics 151L

Physics 152L

Physics 1510

Physics 1610

Physics 1592

Physics 1692

Psychology (6 hrs) Developmental and/or Abnormal Psychology recommended

Psychology 105 Psychology 220

Psychology 1105 Psychology 2220

Because the science prerequisites GPA is ranked on a sliding scale (with 4.0 receiving the most points, and 3.0 the fewest), it is to your advantage to have the highest possible science GPA. To raise your GPA several options are available:

1. After having completed the prerequisite course with a grade of C or better, you may substitute a grade from a higher numbered course with the same classification in your GPA calculation.  However, because of the direct relevance to physical therapy practice, no substitutions are allowed for Anatomy and Physiology.

2. In all areas except Anatomy and Physiology, any courses at or above the minimum requirements are acceptable (E.g., for Statistics, the minimum requirement is Math 145-Statistics, but any higher level statistics class will count).  Recommended Psychology classes include Developmental and/or Abnormal Psychology.

Remember: These are grade substitutions, not course substitutions; you must complete the prerequisite courses first with a grade of C or better.

UNM Physical Therapy Program Policy on Web-Based Prerequisite Courses

1. In order for the University of New Mexico to accept credits earned from a web-based course, that course must appear on a transcript from an accredited college or university. Applicants are strongly urged to contact the UNM Admissions office at (505)277-2447 prior to registering for an on-line course. If UNM accepts the course as “transfer credit”, the Physical Therapy Program will accept it also.

2. Only courses in nutrition, exercise physiology, psychology and statistics will count as a prerequisite if taken on-line. Courses that feature a lab component (chemistry, A&P and physics) will not be accepted as a prerequisite if taken on-line.

New! Online Course - Clinical Exercise Physiology offered by the UNM PT Program

PT 351 Clinical Exercise in Physical Therapy/ CRN # 17851 / 3 credit hours

This course addresses the principles of the physiology of the human body during exercise with emphasis on the cardiopulmonary and neuromuscular systems. In addition, this course addresses an overview of selected pathological conditions of these systems relevant to the practice of physical therapy.

Prerequisite: By permission of the instructor, Dr. Burke Gurney. Phone (505) 272-6850 or email

#3 Bachelor’s Degree:   Admission to our program requires completion of a bachelor’s degree (or higher). A degree in any field is acceptable, as long as the prerequisite courses are also completed.  To apply you must have a minimum Overall GPA as well as a minimum Science GPA of at least 3.0.

#4 Graduate Record Exam (GRE):  Admission to our program requires GRE scores on the General test AND the Writing Assessment.  The GRE must be taken within 5 years of application.  Relevant websites are for the GRE at, and for Prometric Testing Services at

Admissions Procedures

In addition to the requirements of completing a bachelor’s degree in any field, having at least a 3.0 GPA overall and in the science prerequisites, and taking the GREs within 5 years, applicants also write an essay and obtain 3 letters of reference (2 must come from physical therapists).  Based on these initial criteria, the top qualified applicants will be invited for an interview, usually held in early March.  Following the interview process, up to 30 students are selected for the next UNM DPT class.  

Nondiscrimination Policy

The admission procedure in the Physical Therapy Program at the University of New Mexico does not discriminate against any student on the basis of gender, marital or parental status, race, color, religion, age, national origin or physical handicap.

Contact Information:

Amy Dunlap: Program Manager
(505) 272-5756