Factors Influencing Students' Selection of Physical Therapist Programs: Differences between Men and Women and Racial/Ethnic Groups

Article excerpt

Background and Purpose. The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has identified increasing the diversity of the physical therapy profession as 1 of 6 actions necessary to fulfill its mission statement. While faculty at professional physical therapist education programs may be interested in increasing the racial/ethnic diversity and the number of men among their students, there is little information on what influences minority applicants and men to choose a physical therapist education program. The purpose of this study was to determine whether the factors students consider when selecting a physical therapist education program differ between men and women and different racial/ethnic groups.

Subjects, Participants were 919 professional (entry-level) physical therapist students.

Methods. In 2002, faculty members at 34 physical therapist education programs distributed questionnaires to 1,172 professional physical therapist studente within the first 2 weeks of matriculation into programs in 2002. Faculty members returned 919 questionnaires, generating a response rate of 78.4%. To determine differences in the importance of program selection factors based on sex and racial/ethnic identity, the data were statistically analyzed using chi-square analysis and logistic regression.

Results. The bivariate analysis indicates that location, cost, availability of financial aid, and campus environment were more important to women than to men, while reputation of the faculty was more important to men. Program ranking by U.S. News & World Report, availability of financial aid, number of prerequisites, and positive interaction with students were more important selection factors for minority applicants than for white applicants, while reputation of the faculty was more important for whites than minority applicants. In multivariate analysis, minority students had higher odds than white students of identifying positive interaction with students as an important program selection factor. Included in the multivariate analyses were some control variables related to socioeconomic status, other demographic attributes, and academic factors that significantly predicted important selection factors.

Discussion and Conclusion. Nonwhite students have higher odds than white students of identifying positive interaction with students as an important factor in their decision to enroll in the program of their choice. Other differences in importance of program selection factors, by sex and race/ethnicity, can be attributed to socioeconomic status, other demographic variables, and academic factors. The findings from this study may be useful for physical therapist education program faculty members interested in recruiting minority applicants and students into their professional programs.

Key Words: Physical therapist education, Program selection, Minorities, Sex.


The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) identifies 6 actions as necessary to fulfill its mission statement. One of the 6 identified actions is to "facilitate a common understanding and appreciation for the diversity of the profession, the membership, and the communities we serve."1 Increasing diversity among physical therapists has been a longstanding goal of APTA,2 and the profession has increased the percentage of minority racial/ethnic groups among its members. Whites comprised 89.0% of professional physical therapist program graduates in 1997, but 78.0% in 2004.3 During this same time period, the percentages of African American, Asian/Pacific Islander, and Hispanic/Latino graduates all increased. However, APTA encourages further efforts toward recruitment of more applicants from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.2

In addition to historically having a white majority, the physical therapy profession long has been dominated by women. The percentage of men enrolled in physical therapist education programs was 23% in 1991,4 increased to 32% in 2000,5 and decreased to 27% in 2004. …