5 questions to ask yourself before graduating from your DPT program

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It’s exciting to approach the end of your Doctor of Physical Therapy program because you’re going to be able to start the career that you’ve worked hard to prepare for. But as the finish line inches closer, there are quite a few things that you need to think about. 

There are plenty of questions that you should ask yourself about your future as a DPT before crossing the stage at graduation. It’s important that you have some sense of direction for the next step in your career. But if you’re worried about not taking the right questions into consideration, we’re here to help.

We’ll talk about how you can prepare for post-graduation plans and the questions that you should be asking yourself before graduating from your DPT program as you continue your path down a career in physical therapy.

What to do as you prepare for your DPT program graduation

While it may seem like the only thing you should be doing is focusing on finishing your clinicals and coursework, the last thing you want to do is graduate with no clue about the next steps in your future. That’s why you should be doing research and receiving as much guidance as possible about what’s next in your journey as a DPT.

As you’re asking yourself questions before you graduate from your DPT program, you should also:

  • Register for the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).
  • Talk to the academic advisers at your school about exploring career options.
  • Ask your clinical instructors and supervisors for letters of recommendation.

5 questions to consider while approaching your graduation from a DPT program

The goal of these questions is to help you figure out your next step by thinking about your long-term goals as a physical therapist as well as the strengths that you bring to the table.

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have definitive answers to most of these questions right this second. It’s OK to be uncertain, change your mind or want to take a bit of a gap after graduation before diving straight into the next step.


1. Do you have the materials needed to prepare for the NPTE?

Graduating with a Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree is a huge accomplishment, but you still need to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination to become a licensed physical therapist. The exam is administered online, four times a year, and consists of 250 multiple choice questions. You need a score of 600 or above to become a licensed physical therapist in your state.

Preparing for the NPTE should include a variety of materials, including practice exams and NPTE textbooks. You can look for materials online, through purchased books and through the library.


2. Where do you want to practice?

While many people practice physical therapy in the same state they currently live in, that’s not always the case. Perhaps you moved away from your family to attend a particular school and you want to move back. If you’re interested in using your profession as a way to explore the country, you can consider the option of travel physical therapy. 

Thinking about where you want to practice plays a large role in getting your license, as the licensing requirements differ around the country.


3. Do you want to do a residency?

While it’s not required, many DPT graduates decide to go through a clinical residency as a post-graduate program. It gives you the opportunity to learn on-the-job clinical practice skills and experiences as well as have one-on-one mentoring. It’s worth noting that having a residency program on your resume will help you stand out from other candidates when you’re applying for jobs.


4. What do you want to specialize in?

Not every physical therapist has to have a specialization. But if there’s a particular area of the body that you like to focus on, or a specific demographic of patients that you want to help, then it’s worth considering becoming a board-certified clinical specialist through an American Physical Therapy Association-accredited residency program.

The 10 physical therapy specialty areas are:

  • Cardiovascular and pulmonary.
  • Clinical electrophysiology.
  • Pediatrics.
  • Sports.
  • Women’s health.
  • Geriatrics.
  • Neurology.
  • Oncology.
  • Orthopedics.
  • Wound management.

    5. Do you want to become certified in particular treatments?

Not only can you specialize in particular areas of interest, but there are also certifications that physical therapists can earn to practice specific treatments and techniques. There’s continuing education training for techniques like dry needling and the Graston Technique® that will improve your resume as well as your ability to provide patients with the most effective options possible.

Excel Rehab & Sports can help answer questions you have before you graduate from your DPT program

If you’re approaching graduation for your DPT program, then you’ve likely already started to search for potential job opportunities. As you’re going through the questions posed above and weighing your options, working at Excel Rehab & Sports should be on your radar. 

No matter what path you decide to go down following your graduation, check out our careers page and see how we can play a role in your physical therapy journey.