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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near El Mirage Arizona

El Mirage Arizona physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near El Mirage AZ is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are considering to ensure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college 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 in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

El Mirage Arizona DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including El Mirage AZ private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other El Mirage AZ medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

El Mirage Arizona DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate 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 progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the El Mirage AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and commonly include 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 must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

El Mirage Arizona woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's El Mirage AZ home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the El Mirage AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously stated, 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 college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several El Mirage 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 school selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the El Mirage AZ area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements fluctuate 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 Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have associations with El Mirage AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the El Mirage healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their El Mirage AZ home. Those who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college 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 often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the El Mirage AZ area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option 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 obligations.

Find Out More About El Mirage Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Best El Mirage Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in El Mirage Arizona.


 

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