How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Litchfield Park Arizona
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Litchfield Park AZ is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary 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 college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant 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 cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Litchfield Park AZ hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Litchfield Park AZ health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable 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 progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Litchfield Park AZ area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Schools Online
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Litchfield Park AZ residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Litchfield Park AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you need to make certain that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call several Litchfield Park AZ physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Litchfield Park AZ area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have associations with Litchfield Park AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Litchfield Park healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Litchfield Park AZ residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Litchfield Park AZ area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Litchfield Park Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the best physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the schools to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Litchfield Park Arizona.