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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Flagstaff Arizona

Flagstaff Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Flagstaff AZ is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered along with cost and location. 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Flagstaff Arizona physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Flagstaff 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Flagstaff AZ health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering 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 extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Flagstaff Arizona physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Flagstaff AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Flagstaff Arizona woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to 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 part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Flagstaff AZ residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Flagstaff AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Flagstaff AZ physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired 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 suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both excellent 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have relationships with Flagstaff AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Flagstaff healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Flagstaff AZ home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Flagstaff AZ area, check 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 carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Flagstaff Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Flagstaff Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to active 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 adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Flagstaff Arizona.


 

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