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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Coolidge Arizona

Coolidge Arizona physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Coolidge AZ is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled 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 obtain the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are considering to ensure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Coolidge Arizona DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Coolidge AZ private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Coolidge AZ health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely 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

Coolidge Arizona DPT working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor 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 replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Coolidge Arizona female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so 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 near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Coolidge AZ home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, 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 throughout Arizona, you'll have to research other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, 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 school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for 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 a few Coolidge AZ physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program options. It may also be prudent to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction 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 Coolidge AZ area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have associations with Coolidge AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Coolidge healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Coolidge AZ residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide 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 often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Coolidge AZ area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Coolidge Online Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Right Coolidge Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Coolidge Arizona.


 

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