In March of 2000, the APTA Board of Directors approved the following definitions in an attempt to clarify the different clinical experiences available to physical therapists:
Residency: A planned program of postprofessional clinical and didactic education for physical therapists that is designed to advance significantly the physical therapist's preparation as a provider of patient care services in a defined area of clinical practice.
Fellowship: A post-professional, funded, and planned learning experience in a focused area of clinical practice, education, or research (not infrequently post-doctoral or for post-residency prepared, or board-certified therapists).
What is the difference between a residency and a fellowship?
A clinical residency is designed to substantially advance a resident's expertise in examination, evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis, intervention, and management of patients in a defined area of clinical practice (specialty). This focus may also include community service, patient education, research, and supervision of other health care providers (professional and paraprofessional). Often, the residency experience prepares an individual to become a board-certified clinical specialist.
A fellowship is designed for the graduate of a residency or board-certified therapist to focus on a subspecialty area of clinical practice, education, or research.
Additionally, applicants of a clinical fellowship program must have the following qualifications: 1) specialist certification or completion of a residency in a specialty area, 2) substantial clinical experience in a specialty area, and 3) demonstrable clinical skills within a particular specialty area.
*APTA website/education/clinical residency & fellowship credentialing