How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Flagstaff Arizona
Receiving a physical therapist degree near Flagstaff AZ is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Flagstaff AZ private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped 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 injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Flagstaff AZ medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Flagstaff AZ area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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). 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. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Schools
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Flagstaff AZ residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Flagstaff AZ area and throughout Arizona, you'll have to look into other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are reviewing 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 select an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Flagstaff AZ physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 Flagstaff AZ area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Arizona or the state where you will be practicing. 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 school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Flagstaff AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Flagstaff medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Flagstaff AZ home. Students who have opted to attend classes online 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 college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Flagstaff AZ area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Flagstaff Physical Therapist School
Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is an important initial decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Flagstaff Arizona.