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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Coolidge Arizona

Coolidge Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Coolidge AZ is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated 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 appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Coolidge Arizona physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Coolidge 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 mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Coolidge AZ health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Coolidge Arizona physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Coolidge AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed 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 total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Coolidge Arizona female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Coolidge AZ home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Coolidge AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you enroll in the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 select an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call some Coolidge 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 might also be prudent to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Coolidge AZ area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Coolidge AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Coolidge health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Coolidge AZ residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

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

Learn More About Coolidge Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Coolidge Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is an important first decision you have to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish 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 ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Coolidge Arizona.


 

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