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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Catalina Foothills Arizona

Catalina Foothills Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Catalina Foothills AZ is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Catalina Foothills Arizona physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Catalina Foothills AZ hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Catalina Foothills AZ health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Catalina Foothills Arizona DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Catalina Foothills AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

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

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Catalina Foothills Arizona female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Catalina Foothills AZ home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Catalina Foothills AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Catalina Foothills AZ physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Catalina Foothills AZ area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have relationships with Catalina Foothills AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Catalina Foothills healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Catalina Foothills AZ residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern 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 college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Catalina Foothills AZ area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Catalina Foothills Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Catalina Foothills Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish 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 options so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Catalina Foothills Arizona.


 

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