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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Cottonwood Arizona

Cottonwood Arizona physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Cottonwood AZ is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Cottonwood Arizona physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Cottonwood AZ private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Cottonwood AZ medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Cottonwood Arizona physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Cottonwood AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare 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 degrees are usually provided by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and commonly 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment 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 offered in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having 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 Degrees Online

Cottonwood Arizona woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many 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 combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Cottonwood AZ residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Cottonwood AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to be sure that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 enroll in an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Cottonwood AZ physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight 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 filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction 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 Cottonwood AZ area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both excellent 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have relationships with Cottonwood AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Cottonwood healthcare 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 the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Cottonwood AZ home. Students who have chosen 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. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps 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 generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and see what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Cottonwood AZ area, make sure that they are available. 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 need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Cottonwood Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Cottonwood Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy school is an important initial decision you must make to begin a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and talk with active 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 following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Cottonwood Arizona.


 

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