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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Fountain Hills Arizona

Fountain Hills Arizona physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Fountain Hills AZ is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to make certain they will supply a quality education and satisfy 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 cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated 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 the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Fountain Hills Arizona physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Fountain Hills AZ hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Fountain Hills AZ medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Fountain Hills Arizona DPT working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 three years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 phased out and is no longer available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Fountain Hills Arizona woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fountain Hills AZ residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Fountain Hills AZ area and across Arizona, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy 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 agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Fountain Hills AZ physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction 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 Fountain Hills AZ area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have associations with Fountain Hills AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Fountain Hills healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Fountain Hills AZ residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating 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 confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. 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, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Fountain Hills Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Fountain Hills Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with 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 options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Fountain Hills Arizona.


 

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