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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist School Near El Mirage Arizona

El Mirage Arizona physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near El Mirage AZ is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical 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 can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss 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?

El Mirage Arizona physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including El Mirage AZ hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other El Mirage AZ health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

El Mirage Arizona physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the El Mirage AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want 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 three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

El Mirage Arizona woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's El Mirage AZ residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the El Mirage AZ area and across Arizona, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you select the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several El Mirage AZ physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the El Mirage AZ area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have associations with El Mirage AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional relationships in the El Mirage medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their El Mirage AZ residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Help Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what kind of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the El Mirage AZ area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About El Mirage Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Best El Mirage Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is an important initial decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in El Mirage Arizona.


 

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