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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy College Near Apache Junction Arizona

Apache Junction Arizona physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Apache Junction AZ is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Apache Junction Arizona physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Apache Junction AZ hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Apache Junction AZ medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Apache Junction Arizona DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Apache Junction AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Apache Junction Arizona female student taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Apache Junction AZ home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Apache Junction AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact several Apache Junction AZ physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program options. It may also be prudent to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Apache Junction AZ area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Apache Junction AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Apache Junction healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Apache Junction AZ residence. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Apache Junction AZ area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Apache Junction Online Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Right Apache Junction Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Apache Junction Arizona.


 

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