Doctor of Physical Therapy – Program Requirements

Background Checks and Drug Testing

Criminal background checks and drug testing are becoming mandatory at medical institutions as a requirement of the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO). Individuals working in health care facilities often must consent to and be cleared to work through criminal background investigations and/or drug screenings. This is also a common policy/requirement in many physical therapy corporate entities and individual clinics.

In order to ensure patient safety and security, South College requires a criminal background check prior to any applicant being admitted. An additional background check and/or drug testing may be required prior to beginning clinical experiences in year two of the program. Applicants should be aware that a prior criminal background could restrict the ability to obtain professional state licensure. Acceptance into a South College program does not imply or guarantee that a student will be able to obtain such licensure.

Health Insurance

All Doctor of Physical Therapy students are required to carry health insurance (including hospitalization) throughout the entire program. It is the responsibility of the student to purchase health insurance and provide proof of insurance. Health concerns should be addressed with your primary care provider. South College does not have student health facilities nor does the College offer student health plans, but we do have an agreement with Cherokee Health Systems to provide services to our students living in Knoxville or attending onsite lab intensives. Students are financially responsible for any services rendered by Cherokee. Once matriculated into the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, students must show compliance with the health policy including personal health insurance coverage within one month of the start of classes. Failure to do so may result in being liable for dismissal from the program. Students must re-certify their health status (including proof of health insurance) prior to beginning the clinical year (year 2) of the program. Students may not engage in clinical activities until compliance has been met.


Prior to entering the South College Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, students must submit health provider proof of a health examination and updated information of immunization and TB testing results.

Specific related requirements include:

  • Provide proof of personal health insurance throughout the entire program;
  • Provide proof of a satisfactory and current physical examination
  • Provide proof of a negative Tb screening test using either a 2-Step PPD Skin Test (2 Tb skin tests performed 1-3 weeks apart) or Quantiferon Blood Test (positive results will require the student to receive a chest x-ray and further evaluation);
  • Provide proof of Hepatitis B vaccine and positive Hep B Ab immunity via titer;
  • Provide proof of MMR vaccine or immunity via titer.
  • Provide Varicella history or vaccination;
  • Influenza vaccine (required annually to be given during influenza season: October through May);
  • Provide proof of Tetanus, Diphtheria, & Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine within the last 10 years; and,

Prior to entering the clinical phase (year 2) of the program, students must again update their immunization and health records and provide proof of the following:

  • Provide proof of current BLS certification through the American Heart Association;
  • Provide proof of updated annual Tb screening test using either a 2-Step PPD Skin Test (2 Tb skin tests performed 1-3 weeks apart) or Quantiferon Blood Test
  • Provide proof of blood-borne pathogen orientation course; and
  • Provide proof of current personal health insurance, throughout the clinical year.

Computer & Mobile Device Requirements 2020-2021

Students are required to have a laptop computer and mobile device that meet the following specifications.

Laptop Computer1

Laptop computer, with Windows or Apple/Macintosh operating systems are acceptable. Chromebooks or similar devices using the Chrome operating system do NOT work with our examination software; Therefore, they are not recommended nor acceptable for use while in the DPT program.

The following is a list of minimum requirements:

Processori5 or fasteri5 or faster
Display13 inch display (or larger recommended)13 inch display (or larger recommended)
HardwareWebcam capabilities requiredWebcam capabilities required
Operating SystemWindows 10 or higherApple OS 10.13 (High Sierra) and OS X 10.14 (Mojave)
RAM8GB (or larger)8GB (or larger)
Hard Drive256GB (or larger)256GB (or larger)
NetworkingWireless:  802.11g (or higher)Wireless:  802.11g (or higher)
BandwidthMinimum 20Mbps Download/2 Mbps Upload SpeedMinimum 20Mbps Download/2 Mbps Upload Speed
Carrying CaseQuality case suggested for your protectionQuality case suggested for your protection
Warranty3 Yr. Limited Warranty with Next Business Day On-Site Service is suggestedAppleCare Protection Plan for up to 3 years is suggested
Flash Drive1 TB (or larger) USB Flash Drive/external storage1 TB (or larger) USB Flash Drive/external storage
Software2Microsoft Office 365 (Available for free download from South College student email account.)Microsoft Office 365 (Available for free download from South College student email account.)
Anti-Virus & Malware SoftwareAnti-Virus & Malware Software
Acrobat  ReaderOther computer software/ applications required by the programAcrobat  ReaderOther computer software/ applications required by the program
Mobile Device

Android and Apple products are acceptable and must have mobile broadband capabilities. Please see below for example products:

  1. Android – Example products include phones and tablets from Acer, ASUS, Google, HTC, and Samsung. Android operating system version 8.x or higher is required.
  2. Apple – Example products include the iPhone and iPad of various generations. Apple operating system version 10.x or higher is required.
  3. Microsoft – Products such as Surface, Surface Pro, and Lumia devices are NOT supported as multiple software applications required for the program are not currently compatible with Windows operating systems.
  4. Mobile broadband capability for the mobile device is suggested to provide an internet connection when a local wireless network is not available.


  1. Students are required to have the laptop computer and mobile device in their possession at the time of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program Orientation.
  2. Software is required that enables viewing and editing frequently used file types including Microsoft files (Word, PowerPoint, and Excel) and portable document files (PDFs). Even while using the most compatible applications, some software and applications may not be fully compatible with all hardware and across all platforms.  For example, Adobe Flash files may not run on some Apple and Android operating systems.  In these situations where incompatibility results, it is the student’s responsibility to view any required files utilizing compatible hardware or utilizing the South College computer laboratory. All assessments, with the exception of certain lab exams, contributing to >5% of the final course grade will be administered via a secure-testing computer software. At the beginning of the student’s first quarter of the program, they are required to download and register ExamSoft testing software. Tablets and mobile devices cannot be used for computer-based testing.
  3. A variety of mobile device applications are required for use throughout the program.
  4. It is recommended that students load Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browsers on their computers. Canvas works best in these internet browsers.
Technical Standards

South College does not discriminate on the basis of disability in education programs and activities pursuant to the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Rehabilitation Acts Amendments of 1974 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Please refer to the Disability Services Policy published in the South College Catalog and the Student Handbook for complete information.

Physical therapy is a mentally, physically, and psychologically demanding profession. Throughout the DPT curriculum, students acquire the foundation of knowledge, attitudes, skills, and behaviors that are necessary for a successful career as a physical therapist. Technical standards reflect those abilities that a physical therapist must possess for safe and effective clinical practice. Prospective and current students must meet the following technical requirements with or without reasonable accommodation for admission, progression, and graduation in the DPT Program.

General Abilities

The student is expected to possess functional use of the senses of vision, touch, hearing, taste, and smell. All data received by the senses must be integrated, analyzed, and synthesized in a consistent and accurate manner. In addition, the individual is expected to possess the ability to perceive pain, pressure, temperature, position, equilibrium, and movement.

Observational Ability

The candidate is expected to observe the patient accurately and assess health, illness, movement and functional capacity. Inherent in this observation process is the use of the senses and sufficient motor capability to carry out the necessary assessment activities.  These expectations apply to virtual and in person experiences.

Communication Ability

Communication includes speech, language (verbal and non-verbal), reading, writing, and computer literacy. Students should possess the capability to engage in effective and empathetic communication with patients, enabling them to extract information about mood and activities while also discerning non-verbal cues. This involves being sensitive and conveying compassion. Physical Therapy education presents exceptional challenges in the volume and breadth of required reading and the necessity to impart information to others. Students must be able to communicate quickly, effectively, and efficiently in oral and written English with all members of the healthcare team.

Interpersonal, Behavioral, and Professional Attributes

Ethical conduct is a fundamental aspect of their educational journey that students must consistently demonstrate. Students should have the emotional and psychological capacity to fully utilize their intellectual capabilities, exercise sound judgment, and promptly fulfill all duties related to the practice of Physical Therapy. Additionally, they must cultivate mature, sensitive, and productive relationships with patients, caregivers, and healthcare teams. Students should also demonstrate the adaptability and flexibility to perform efficiently and effectively in high-pressure situations with both physical and mentally challenging workloads. It’s crucial for students to excel with physically and mentally demanding workloads and operate efficiently under pressure. Necessary personal qualities include a genuine concern for others, integrity, accountability, and self-motivation.

Motor/Psychomotor Ability

Students must possess sufficient motor function to conduct examination procedures and interventions considered standards of physical therapy practice.  Students must be able to execute movements required to provide general and therapeutic care.  Students must have the motor and psychomotor ability to direct or execute immediate care to an ill or injured patient during an emergency consistent with the physical therapy practice act. 

Critical Thinking Ability

The candidate is expected to have the ability to develop and refine problem-solving skills. This includes the ability to measure, calculate, analyze and synthesize objective as well as subjective data and make decisions that reflect consistent and thoughtful deliberation and clinical judgment. In addition, the candidate should be able to comprehend three-dimensional relationships and understand the spatial relationships of structures. Students must have the ability to use computers for searching, recording, storing, retrieving, and communicating information.

Specific Requirements – Students must be able to:
  1. Attend and participate in online and onsite classes for 30 or more hours per week during each academic quarter. Classes consist of a combination of lecture, discussion, laboratory, and clinical activities.
  2. Use auditory, tactile, and visual senses to receive and participate in classroom, laboratory, and clinical instruction and to evaluate and treat patients.
  3. Read, write, speak, and understand English at a level consistent with successful course completion and development of positive patient-therapist relationships.
  4. Complete readings, assignments, and other learning activities during and outside of class hours.
  5. Apply critical thinking processes to their work in the classroom and the clinic.
  6. Exercise sound judgment in class and in the clinic.
  7. Participate in clinical education experiences which typically require students to be present 40 or more hours per week on a schedule that corresponds to the operating hours of the clinic.
  8. Recognize, gather, and synthesize critical pieces of information for clinical reasoning and decision-making during patient assessment activities in class or in the clinical setting without the use of an intermediary (classmate, aide, etc.).
  9. Perform physical therapy interventions in class or in the clinical setting by direct performance or by instruction and supervision of intermediaries.
  10. Sit for two to 10 hours daily, stand for two to four hours daily, and walk or travel for two hours daily during instructional activities. In clinical situations, alternately sit, stand, walk for up to 10 hours daily.
  11. Frequently lift weights less than 10 pounds and occasionally lift weights between 10 and 100 pounds.
  12. Occasionally carry up to 25 pounds while walking up to 50 feet.
  13. Frequently exert 75 pounds of push/pull forces to objects up to 50 feet and occasionally exert 150 pounds of push/pull forces for this distance.
  14. Frequently twist, bend, and stoop.
  15. Occasionally squat, crawl, climb stools, reach above shoulder level, and kneel.
  16. Frequently move from place-to-place and position-to-position at a speed that permits safe handling of classmates and patients.
  17. Frequently stand and walk while providing support to a classmate simulating a disability or while supporting a patient with a disability.
  18. Occasionally climb stairs and negotiate uneven terrain.
  19. Frequently use the hands repetitively with a simple grasp and frequently use a firm grasp and manual dexterity skills.
  20. Frequently coordinate verbal and manual activities with gross motor activities.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply to the program. However, it is the responsibility of the student to notify South College in writing with medical documentation from their provider, (School of Physical Therapy, South College, 400 Goody’s Lane, Suite 101, Knoxville, TN 37922) and verbally if there is any reason why the abilities and/or expectations described cannot be met. Students will review these technical standards during the final stage of admission to the program and attest to their ability to perform these skills.

Students who indicate verbally and in writing (with medical documentation) that they cannot meet one or more of these requirements will be reviewed by South College to determine what, if any reasonable accommodations might be possible to facilitate successful completion of the degree requirements if admitted to the program.

Applicants who cannot complete these tasks, even with reasonable accommodation, are not eligible for admission. Any previously made offer of admission may be withdrawn if it becomes apparent that the student cannot complete essential tasks even with accommodation, or that the accommodations needed are not reasonable and would cause undue hardship to the institution, or that fulfilling the functions would create a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of others. If you have any further questions or concerns regarding these technical standards, please contact the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program.

Students with documented disabilities are entitled to receive approved accommodations or modifications, auxiliary aids, or appropriate academic adjustments that will enable them to participate in and benefit from all educational programs and activities of the College.  All accommodations, modifications, and services are provided on a case-by-case basis and may vary depending on the needs of the student and his/her classes (online, on ground, or both).  Reasonable accommodation refers to ways in which the College can assist students with disabilities to accomplish learning activities. Reasonable accommodation does not mean that students with disabilities will be exempt from completing certain tasks. Applicants who cannot complete essential program tasks, even with reasonable accommodation, are not eligible for admission. Any previously made offer of admission may be withdrawn if it becomes apparent that the student cannot complete essential tasks even with accommodation, or that the accommodations needed are not reasonable and would cause undue hardship to the institution, or that fulfilling the functions would create a significant risk of harm to the health or safety of others.  Certain aspects of the academic program may be considered essential as designed.  Accommodations which create a fundamental change of an essential element of the program will not be granted.  Students may receive the same or similar accommodations in other areas of the program where the accommodation does not create a fundamental change to an essential program element.

Steps for requesting, continuing, and/or waiving accommodations can be found in the DPT Student Handbook (Section 5.20.0 – Services for Students with Disabilities).

South College does not discriminate on the basis of disability in education programs and activities pursuant to the requirements of Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended by the Rehabilitation Acts Amendments of 1974 and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Inquiries and charges of violations concerning these acts should be directed to the Director of Student Success, South College, 3904 Lonas Drive, Knoxville, Tennessee 37909.

Fair Practice Standards

All aspects of the Doctor of Physical Therapy Program at South College are accurately reflected in its brochures, bulletins, catalogs, student handbooks, and all other forms of information and advertising published by or endorsed by South College.  South College is committed to equal opportunity for all and does not discriminate in admission, access, treatment, or employment in its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, religion, creed, marital status, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, age, or handicap.  South College is committed to a program of affirmative action to ensure access equity, and fairness in educational programs, related activities, and employment for minorities, women, handicapped persons, disabled veterans, and veterans of our nation’s wars.  This policy and other policies involving sexual harassment, discrimination, and other issues are reiterated in the South College Catalog.  Academic regulations, including grievance procedures, can also be found in the South College Catalog.