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What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Arizona physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Arizona private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other AZ medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. 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 considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Arizona DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in Arizona:

  • Associate Degrees train 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 GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want 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 complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Arizona woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so 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 school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Arizona residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable 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 alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Find Out More About Arizona Online Physical Therapist Courses

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