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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Golden Valley Arizona

Golden Valley Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Golden Valley AZ is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Golden Valley Arizona physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Golden Valley AZ hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Golden Valley AZ health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Golden Valley Arizona physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Golden Valley 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 earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

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. A number of 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 Colleges

Golden Valley Arizona woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Golden Valley AZ home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer 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 Golden Valley AZ area and across Arizona, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school'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. Get in touch with several Golden Valley AZ physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Golden Valley AZ area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in furnishes both exceptional 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have partnerships with Golden Valley AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Golden Valley health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Golden Valley AZ residence. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Golden Valley AZ area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Golden Valley Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Best Golden Valley Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist program is an important initial decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Golden Valley Arizona.


 

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