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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Cottonwood Arizona

Cottonwood Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Cottonwood AZ is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest 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 the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Cottonwood Arizona physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Cottonwood AZ hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Cottonwood AZ medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Cottonwood Arizona physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Cottonwood Arizona female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Cottonwood AZ home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you probably have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Cottonwood AZ area and across Arizona, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Cottonwood AZ physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Cottonwood AZ area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Arizona or the state where you will be working. 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 school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Cottonwood AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Cottonwood healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Cottonwood AZ home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble 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 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 frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy school 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 night or weekend classes in the Cottonwood AZ area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Cottonwood Physical Therapy Training

Choose the Best Cottonwood Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy college is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want 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 accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Cottonwood Arizona.


 

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