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

Fountain Hills Arizona physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Fountain Hills AZ is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to ensure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Fountain Hills Arizona DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Fountain Hills AZ hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, 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 course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fountain Hills AZ health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, 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 take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Fountain Hills Arizona DPT working with man in pool

There are three 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 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 progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Fountain Hills AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment 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 phased out and is no longer available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Fountain Hills Arizona woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fountain Hills AZ home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want 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 Fountain Hills AZ area and throughout Arizona, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call several Fountain Hills AZ physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy schools 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. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fountain Hills AZ area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Fountain Hills AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get hands on training in a clinical setting, 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 Fountain Hills medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Fountain Hills AZ home. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what kind of help is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fountain Hills AZ area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option 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 due to illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Fountain Hills Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Best Fountain Hills Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Fountain Hills Arizona.


 

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