MSc Physiotherapy Program

The Master of Science (Physiotherapy) Program offered at McMaster University is a 25-month full time, entry-to-practice program. This program utilizes problem-based, small group, self-directed learning.

Admission Deadline: Is Now Closed for September 2018

Curriculum Changes Coming for 2018!

Mission, Vision, Values & Outcomes


To educate student physiotherapists:

  • Who deliver compassionate and effective physiotherapy in dynamic health environments through integration of best evidence and physiotherapy practice management principles, professional standards, and collaborative care.
  • Who demonstrate leadership by contributing to their profession, to their communities and to the physiotherapy knowledge base.


The McMaster Physiotherapy Program will transform physiotherapy education, advocacy, discovery and knowledge exchange.


We Value:

  • Collaboration and Teamwork    
  • Innovation and Creativity
  • Accountability
  • Honesty and Integrity
  • Lifelong learning
  • Citizenship



As experts in movement function and dysfunction and functional performance who promote, improve, and maintain mobility and health, graduates of the McMaster Physiotherapy Program will:


  • Demonstrate clinical competency in physiotherapy diagnosis, prognosis, evaluation, treatment planning, and implementation across health care settings. (*Physiotherapy Expert)
  • Collaborate in a professional, ethical, legal, and compassionate manner to optimize health care delivery. (*Professionalism, *Collaboration, *Communication, *Management)
  • Demonstrate a commitment to society and physiotherapy through advocacy and advancement of the profession. (*Leadership, *Scholarship, *Professionalism, *Communication, *Collaboration)
  • Critically evaluate and effectively apply evidence as a basis for physiotherapy practice in order to determine the effectiveness of interventions and to contribute to the body of knowledge in physiotherapy. (*Scholarship, *Management)
  • Function as effective knowledge exchange brokers using a variety of communication mediums, including verbal and written communication, and technology. (*Communication, *Collaboration, *Scholarship)
  • Demonstrate knowledge, skills and behaviours necessary to safely function as an autonomous and self-regulated physiotherapy professional in all roles. (*Physiotherapy Expert, *Professionalism, *Scholarship)

*Essential Competencies -



  1. Provide students with a variety of innovative learning experiences that reflect current and emerging practices in physiotherapy and education.
  2. Provide students with an academic and clinical educational foundation that enables them to safely practice within the professional, legal and ethical framework of physiotherapy practice.
  3. Promote the importance of professional growth and life-long learning to the continued development of self as physiotherapist.
  4. Deliver a curriculum that is responsive to the educational needs of students and communities served by the McMaster Physiotherapy Program.
  5. Ensure program quality through ongoing assessment of outcomes.
  6. Education the communities served by the McMaster Physiotherapy Program about current and emerging roles of physiotherapy.

Program Overview

The Master of Science (PT) prepares students in their eligibility to be registered practicing physiotherapists in Canada. This program meets Canadian professional accreditation and practice standards.


Our curriculum is developed and modified by faculty who keep themselves apprised of changing trends in health care and physiotherapy practice overall. The faculty are acutely aware of the current and evolving roles of physiotherapists. Physiotherapists are working in increasingly complex sectors which require an advanced skill set. New graduates need to be autonomous primary health care practitioners able to design new programs, develop proposals, evaluate outcomes and supervise others in order to provide the best interventions to the clients who we serve. There is a greater emphasis on independent, evidence-based practice which requires physiotherapists to have critical appraisal skills and additional preparation in research methods.


The curriculum is based on the principles of problem-based, small group, and self-directed learning. Units are 14 weeks in duration. The program includes five-6 week clinical placements following Units 2 through 6 academics. Clinical placements occur in multiple settings (i.e. acute/hospital, community, rehabilitation, role emerging) and various practice areas (i.e. musculoskeletal, neurological, cardiorespiratory).

Click here for the class of 2019 PT Program Handbook

Click here for the class of 2020 PT Program Handbook


Unit 1 - Fundamentals of Physiotherapy Practice


This Unit focuses on the fundamental knowledge and skills of clinical practice. The emphasis is on acquiring knowledge and basic clinical skills related to musculoskeletal practice. Fundamental skills related to cardiorespiratory practice and neurological practice are also introduced. The musculoskeletal focus is on assessment and treatment of the upper quadrant.


Unit 2 - Fundamentals of Musculoskeletal Practice


In this Unit there is a major emphasis on musculoskeletal assessment and treatment of the lower quadrant. Following Unit 2 the clinical practice placement can be in a community, hospital or rehabilitation setting.


Unit 3 - Fundamentals of Cardiorespiratory and Neurological Physiotherapy


This Unit emphasizes the assessment and treatment of patients and clients with cardiorespiratory problems. In addition it provides an introduction to neurological practice focusing on individuals with spinal cord injuries and stroke. Following Unit 3 students will complete their placement which may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.


Unit 4 - Advanced Neurological Physiotherapy Practice


This Unit emphasizes the assessment and the development and implementation of interventions for clients with neurological problems across the lifespan. Following Unit 4 students will complete a clinical practice placement which may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.


Unit 5 - Community Health / Community Practice


This Unit provides students with the skills to assume current and emergent health care roles in the community with an emphasis on educational and consultation skills. There will be a focus on the integration of health promotion and disease prevention concepts to promote physical activity and movement in all age groups for persons with and without disability. These concepts will be applied to conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and coronary heart disease. Students will complete their clinical placements which may be in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.


Unit 6 - Integrated Practice and Professional Transition


This Unit will focus on assessment and management of clients with complex, multisystem health problems for example, burns, palliative care, multisystem failure and work related injuries. This Unit also provides the opportunity for students to focus on topical professional issues as they prepare for their transition to professional practice. Following the academic component of the Unit, students will complete a clinical placement in a community, hospital, rehabilitation, or role emerging setting.

Clinical Education

Clinical education is an essential part of the PT Program Curriculum because it provides students with the opportunity to apply knowledge they have acquired in the academic setting. Students gain practical experience in clinical settings interacting with clients while being supervised by clinical instructors who are registered physiotherapists.

Placement Opportunities

During the two year PT Program, students will have the opportunity to do placements within McMaster’s catchment area that may include a variety of health care facilities including teaching hospitals, community hospitals, health care agencies, specialized centres, private clinics, and other community facilities. Students may also have the chance to request placements outside of McMaster’s catchment area, to undertake an international placement in their final year, and participate in the Northern Studies Stream.

Although placements are limited and subject to availability, student preferences are taken into consideration where possible.

During clinical practica, students may be required to attend evening and weekend hours. Whenever possible, students will know in advance if evening and/or weekend hours are required. It is students' responsibility to meet the requirements for clinical practica hours in order to meet the degree requirements of their respective programs.

McMaster Catchment Area

Clinical placements are organized by the Director of Clinical Education (DCE) and the opportunities occur within a broad range and scope of settings. Every university has their own geographical catchment area from which they obtain placements and McMaster’s catchment area allows student to gain valuable clinical experience in both urban and rural areas.
Students are expected to travel outside of Hamilton, Ontario for mandatory teaching sessions and clinical placements. Students are responsible for their own transportation and associated costs in order to complete program requirements. Some placements may be located in rural, under-serviced and remote areas. In certain placement streams, there may be some external funding available.

The McMaster catchment area extends to:

  • West to Paris
  • East to Milton
  • North to Orangeville
  • South to Niagara Region Border
  • Northwestern Ontario (Northern Studies Stream)

Students can expect to complete placements within the above designated area. There may be opportunities to complete placements in other areas of Canada.

Students may also have the opportunity of completing an international placement in their final term of study.

Clinical Placement Matching

Placements are limited and subject to availability. Many factors influence the matching of students to the available clinical placement offers. Although student preferences may be solicited, the best match will be determined by the Director of Clinical Education who must take the needs of the program, community partners, current and future students into account

Course Listing

Click here for the course listing located within the McMaster Graduate Calendar.

Curriculum Design


  • Small group learning (6 to 8 people)
  • Learning based on real-life clinical scenarios
  • Student driven learning process
  • Tutor-facilitated learning


  • Large and small group learning
  • Faculty and clinician facilitated
  • Opportunities for:
  • small and large group discussion
  • skill development and demonstration
  • practical hands on sessions
    community visits


  • Small group activities
  • Large group discussions
  • Guest lecturers
  • Student presentations


  • Small group research opportunity in second year of study
  • Faculty members or clinicians from community act as supervisors
  • Opportunity to do research with students, faculty, or clinicians from other health care disciplines.


  • Clinical experience in a variety of health care environments supervised by regulated health care professionals

Learn more



Educational Framework

The MSc (PT) program utilizes a problem-based, self-directed learning philosophy. An overall goal is to exercise the student's capacity to think and discover during the process of gaining knowledge. Our program is designed to guide, stimulate, and challenge students in order to produce professionals who will make a difference in practice.

Self-directed learning (SDL) is a component of life-long learning, which is now a clear expectation for all physiotherapists as practitioners within a regulated health profession. Self-directed learning provides students with the essential skills needed to work within changing practice contexts.

Within the framework provided by the goals and objectives of the Physiotherapy Program, students should be able to determine their own learning goals, how best to achieve their objectives, how to select learning resources, and how to measure their own progress. Faculty facilitate learning by asking questions, stimulating critical thinking, challenging the students' point of view, providing feedback, and evaluating student performance.

Problem-based learning (PBL), as a conceptual framework, contends that knowledge is best remembered in the context in which it is learned, and that acquisition and integration of new knowledge requires activation of prior knowledge. In contrast to the common approach of using a problem for application after learning has taken place, problem-based learning requires that the learner encounter a problem first as the initial stimulus for learning. The learner thus becomes actively involved in the learning process, can shape it to meet personal needs based on prior knowledge and experience, can engage in independent study appropriate to his/her unique learning style, and can integrate information from many sources, including student peers, into a conceptual framework for use in dealing with future problems.

Small group learning is a natural extension of problem-based learning. To maximize small group learning, we believe it is important to bring students from various educational and work experience backgrounds together so that the heterogeneity of the group itself becomes a valuable learning resource. The transfer of knowledge is enhanced through the use of problems that encourage students to not only learn content, but also to develop strategies to recognize the ‘analogy' or ‘principle' that can then be transferred to new problems and contexts.

Evidence-based practice is also an important part of our educational framework, led by faculty who are recognized internationally for the application of evidence-based practice in physiotherapy.
One of the goals of the program is to graduate physiotherapists who are evidence-based practitioners which means:

  • They have the skills to evaluate and use evidence to support their clinical decisions,
  • They incorporate the needs and values of their clients, and
  • They have effective clinical skills.

In the second year, students advance their evidence-based practice and research skills by working in groups on research projects and presenting the results to their peers, faculty and the clinical community.

Interprofessional education is an important educational framework within rehabilitation and health sciences. The Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University has developed PIPER (Program of Interprofessional Education and Research) to encourage students to develop strong collaborative and team skills for future practice. The physiotherapy program supports interprofessional educational activities for all students. Click here to learn more about PIPER.

Student Evaluation

Student performance is evaluated on a regular basis throughout the MSc(PT) Program using a variety of evaluation tools that are consistent with the basic principles of problem-based and self-directed learning.

The evaluation process can be formative or summative, and as such, it provides valuable feedback to students to enhance their learning. Evaluations are also used to assure faculty, students, clients, and society that graduates possess the required knowledge, skills, and professional behaviours to function as competent professionals.

Evaluation presents a challenge for any curriculum. A curriculum founded on the basis of problem-based, self-directed learning lends additional dimensions to this challenge. As no single evaluation method can assess all domains of learning or competence, various methods must be used. The choice of the evaluation method or tool is based on educational value (e.g., formative or summative), learning objective domain (e.g., cognitive, psychomotor, affective), measurement properties (e.g., reliability, validity, generalizability), and feasibility (e.g., time needed, resources required, costs).

Some of the student evaluation methods and tools used in the MSc(PT) Program include:

Tutorial performance of the group as a whole and of each of its members (including the tutor) is evaluated on a regular basis throughout each unit. The final student grade is based on knowledge, use of learning resources, group participation and facilitation, critical appraisal skills, professional behaviours and evaluation skills (i.e., self-assessment, peer-assessment, and tutor evaluation).

Written exams using multiple choice questions (MCQs) or a short answer format are used to assess knowledge.

Modified essay questions (MEQs) are designed to assess aspects of clinical reasoning and problem-solving using a paper problem as a stimulus. The MEQ presents the student with progressive amounts of information about a practice problem in a sequence predetermined by the examiner. At successive stages, the student responds to the information and is asked to make and explain his/her decisions.

Essays are used to evaluate knowledge, critical appraisal skills, critical thinking, analysis, and synthesis skills. The essay tests the understanding of principles or relationships, and fosters independent thinking and learning. Furthermore, it is used to develop and evaluate writing skills. Essays are assessed on content, organization, style, and mechanics. A problem write-up which focuses on a particular case scenario/client problem is a variation of the traditional essay.

Direct Observation is used primarily to evaluate technical/behavioural skills. This type of practical examination might be used to evaluate interviewing skills, assessment techniques, and/or use of therapeutic interventions.

Objective and Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) is an objective evaluation measure used to assess components of clinical competence. It has the potential for testing a wide range of knowledge and clinical skills, and can be utilized to evaluate a large number of students during one examination period. The OSCE can be used as a formative or summative measure of student performance and also provides valuable feedback to faculty for the purpose of curriculum revision.

The OSCE is structured in such a way as to sample student performance in a variety of areas and to make maximum use of the time available. Students rotate around a series of timed stations. There may be up to 10 stations of 5 or 10 minutes duration. At each station, students are asked to perform a specific task such as taking a patient history, performing a physical examination or diagnostic procedure, teaching/counselling/advising a patient, writing a prescription or report, charting, performing a treatment technique or other clinical procedure, and interpreting findings such as lab reports, and x-rays. Examiner stations, where an observer is asked to score a student=s performance, usually entail interaction with a standardized patient or use of a mannequin. Marker stations, where a student is asked to answer written questions, record findings or interpret patient data, do not require an observer but entail subsequent marking.

Evaluation criteria are determined in advance on the basis of course objectives and student learning activities. A standardized rating form is used for evaluation by the examiners. Safety and professionalism are included within the evaluative criteria.

Presentations are also used throughout the program. A health care professional must be able to articulate and defend an opinion or position, and, to present information and ideas in an organized and clear manner. To help the students develop these skills, individual and group presentations are used as evaluation components in most units.

Learning contracts are used to evaluate student performance during clinical placement experiences and for remedial work. The use of a learning contract reinforces the students' role as an active participant in the process of learning, rather than a passive recipient. In the professional preparation setting, learning contracts allow the student to meet the program objectives and also to pursue individual objectives. The learning contract is a document comprised of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) goals and is developed by the student and approved by a faculty member. It specifies what the student will learn, how this will be accomplished, within what time frame, and what specific evaluation criteria will be used for each objective. The learning contract reconciles the "imposed" requirements of the program with the learner's own personal goals and objectives. It enables the student to choose his/her own way of achieving the objectives and to self-evaluate the progress towards achieving them.

Physiotherapy Northern Studies Stream (NSS)

The Northern Studies Stream (NSS) was established in 1991 to specifically address the shortage of OTs and PTs in Northwestern Ontario through various recruitment and retention initiatives.

With 25 years of documented success, the current NSS is focused on providing clinical education opportunities for students across northern Ontario. Approximately 50% of students in the OT/PT Program will have the opportunity to participate in clinical education placements in northern Ontario.

The goals of the current NSS are threefold:

  1. To increase student awareness and knowledge of the health determinants that are unique to northern and rural communities;
  2. To increase student awareness of Aboriginal health issues, culture and health practices relevant to the First Nations people living in northern and rural Ontario; and
  3. To increase student skills in addressing professional practice issues while engaging in clinical education and living in a northern and/or rural community.

If interest in NSS is uncharacteristically low, students may be assigned by the Program to a clinical placement (any unit) in NSS.

Accreditation Status

The Master of Science (Physiotherapy) Program at McMaster University has completed the accreditation review process administered by Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada (PEAC). PEAC is an incorporated body under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act and operates as the accrediting agency for physiotherapy education programs in Canada. The status of Accreditation - Fully Compliant was granted to the program on April 30, 2015 for the period until April 30, 2021.

A description of Accreditation – Fully Compliant follows: (Per PEAC policy ACC-02 Disclosure, Appendix B)

Accreditation-Fully Compliant

  • A program is in compliance with 100% of the accreditation criteria with in the Accreditation Standards.
  • There are no deficiencies.
  • There could be identified issues and weaknesses that the program must improve upon.
  • Progress towards improving issues and weaknesses must be reported in regular Progress Reports to PEAC.
  • If progress is not made, the program’s accreditation status could be changed to partially compliant or probationary.

More details regarding the definitions of the levels of accreditation are available at
For more information about PEAC: Physiotherapy Education Accreditation Canada, Suite 26, 509 Commissioners Road West, London, Ontario, N6J 1Y5, (226) 636-0632,

Regulation of Practice

All physiotherapists in Canada must be registered with the appropriate provincial regulatory body in order to practice in that province.
Each regulatory body has a separate and distinct registration process, however, in all circumstances, a degree in physiotherapy is required.
Graduates must successfully complete the Physiotherapy Competency Examination (PCE) in order to practice in the province of Ontario, and most other provinces in Canada. This examination is administered the Canadian Alliance of Physiotherapy Regulators (The Alliance).



Click here for Student Research & Evidence Based Practice Projects

General Information

Mailing Address:

School of Rehabilitation Sciences
Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University
Institute of Applied Health Sciences,
Room 403, 1400 Main St. W. Hamilton, ON L8S 1C7


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