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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Drexel Heights Arizona

Drexel Heights Arizona physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Drexel Heights AZ is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Drexel Heights Arizona physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Drexel Heights 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Drexel Heights AZ health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, 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 Therapist Degree Options

Drexel Heights Arizona physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in 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 focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Drexel Heights AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 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 also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Drexel Heights Arizona woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated 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 program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Drexel Heights AZ home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Drexel Heights AZ area and across Arizona, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you choose the college that is ideal 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 reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously 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 school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can look into 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 also. Call some Drexel Heights AZ physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out 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 should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Drexel Heights AZ area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have associations with Drexel Heights AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Drexel Heights healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average 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 speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Drexel Heights AZ residence. Those who have chosen 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 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Drexel Heights AZ area, confirm 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 need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Drexel Heights Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Best Drexel Heights Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school 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 selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Drexel Heights Arizona.


 

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