How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Apache Junction Arizona
Getting a physical therapist degree near Apache Junction AZ is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are looking at to make certain they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Apache Junction AZ private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Apache Junction AZ medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Apache Junction AZ area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
Although not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of 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 school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Apache Junction AZ home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
By now you probably have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Apache Junction AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you pick the college that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Apache Junction AZ physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, 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 college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Apache Junction AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Apache Junction medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Apache Junction AZ home. Those who have opted 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 concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Apache Junction AZ area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Apache Junction Physical Therapy School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Apache Junction Arizona.