• Steps to Develop an Education Program
    The rules governing the development of an education program for the preparation of physical therapists (PT) or physical therapist assistants (PTA) are delineated in the Accreditation Handbook. These rules change periodically; it is the institution's responsibility to ensure that it is working from the most current set of rules. 

    In order to begin the preaccreditation process and establish a candidacy review cycle, institutions MUST provide all evidence delineated in Part 7.8 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure. This evidence includes, but is not limited to:

    • Evidence that the institution is an institution of higher education with degree granting authority, or has an executed formal agreement with an institution of higher education with degree granting authority;
    • The institution has state approval to offer the program/degree;
    • The institution has been deemed by its accrediting agency to be in compliance with all institutional accreditation requirements;
    • The institution has, or has applied for, approval to develop/offer a physical therapy education program/degree from its institutional accrediting agency;
    • The program has hired a full-time program director who meets all of the qualifications of Element 4G in CAPTE's Standards and Required Elements for Accreditation; and*
    • The institution/program has conducted an assessment that examines the need for a new program and includes, at a minimum, all information requested in the document, “Conducting and Writing a Needs Assessment”.

      *NOTE: Determination that a program has met requirements for establishing a review cycle does not mean that the program meets, or is making satisfactory progress toward compliance with, any one or more of the relevant standards/elements; such a decision is the purview of CAPTE.

    There are two (2) candidacy review cycles per year, which dictate:

    • The submission deadlines of Applications for Candidacy (AFCs) (June 1 and December 1);
    • The timeline for review of AFCs by the Commission (at the spring and fall meetings of CAPTE’s Central Panel); and
    • The earliest acceptable date for matriculation of students.

    A maximum of six (6) applications are reviewed by CAPTE per candidacy cycle.

    The acceptance of Applications for Candidacy will be based on the receipt date of the Developing Program Information Form. Developing Program Information Forms indicating the program’s intent to submit in a cycle that has already met the cap will be rescheduled to the next available review cycle and planned student admission must be delayed accordingly. [See the Rules of Practice and Procedure (revised November 2016), Part 7, for a detailed description of Candidacy Cycles and timelines.]

    Institutions may not matriculate students into a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant program until Candidate for Accreditation status is granted by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. The rules governing this process are delineated in Part 7 of the Rules of Practice and Procedure found in the Accreditation Handbook. Institutions seeking to develop a PT or PTA program must submit an AFC that meets eligibility requirements established by CAPTE, as delineated in Part 7 of the Rules. Determination by staff that an AFC is eligible for further review does not mean that the program meets, or is making satisfactory progress toward compliance with, any one or more of the relevant standards/elements; such a decision is the purview of CAPTE.

    The AFC is a detailed report that describes progress toward and the potential for achieving compliance with the Standards and Required Elements. In order to develop an AFC, programs must follow the instructions and forms identified and provided by Accreditation Department staff after the program has established a candidacy review cycle. To achieve Candidate for Accreditation status, the AFC must demonstrate readiness to matriculate students at the time of submission.

    Program start dates must take into consideration that initial accreditation decisions are made by CAPTE only during their regularly scheduled meetings (Fall and Spring). The related on-site visit for initial accreditation decisions must occur no later than ten (10) weeks prior to the CAPTE meeting. Exceptions to this requirement will not be considered by CAPTE. Since state licensing laws require graduates to be from CAPTE accredited programs, it is not advisable to have students graduate from a program prior to the program achieving accreditation. Although CAPTE has the ability for its decisions to be retroactive to a date prior to graduation, not all states will accept retroactive accreditation. In addition, graduation prior to accreditation delays the ability of students to take the licensing exam and, therefore, begin employment.

    Resource Documents

    • Accreditation Handbook
      Institutions interested in developing a PT or PTA education program are advised to carefully review the Accreditation Handbook and monitor it for updates. The Accreditation Handbook provides the Rules of Practice and Procedure by which CAPTE operates; it includes:
      • Procedures for Achievement of and Maintenance of Candidate for Accreditation (includes decision cycle timelines) (Part 7)
      • Procedures for Achievement of and Maintenance of Accreditation (Part 8)
      • Substantive Change Rules (Part 9)
      • Program Fees (Part 16)
    • Aggregate Program Data
      Includes demographic information about accredited PT and PTA education programs and the numbers of accredited and developing programs.
    • Additional Resources
      A list of useful CAPTE and APTA documents is provided, along with related webpages.

    Workshops
    APTA's Accreditation Department holds two types of workshops 3 times a year: Self-Study Workshops and Developing Program Workshops. Developing programs are required to send at least 2 individuals (the program director and an appropriate institutional administrator) to a Developing Program Workshop PRIOR to the submission of the Application for Candidacy. In addition, the program director must attend a Self-Study Workshop prior to AFC submission. Self-Study Workshops are held to discuss CAPTE's expectations for specific elements, as well as to address general accreditation and self-study processes. Program directors and administrators are strongly encouraged to attend the workshops early in the development process.

    Consultants
    CAPTE recommends that developing programs engage the services of a consultant. The Accreditation Department staff does not provide names of consultants for program development. A list of educational consultants, if desired, can be obtained from Anne Reicherter, APTA Senior Specialist, Practice. CAPTE is not responsible for the quality of services provided by consultants.

    APTA Curriculum Resources for Educators

    A “Blueprint for Teaching Cultural Competence in Physical Therapy Education” and other resources to facilitate academic program curriculum development, review and enhancement are available to PT and PTA Educators.

  • Last Updated: 9/22/2017
    Contact: accreditation@apta.org