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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Maricopa Arizona

Maricopa Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Maricopa AZ is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are looking at to make certain they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Maricopa Arizona DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Maricopa AZ private practices, hospitals, 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 previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Maricopa AZ health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, 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. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting 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 extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Maricopa Arizona DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Maricopa AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary 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 a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important component in addition to the substantial 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 available in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Maricopa Arizona female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist 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 nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Maricopa AZ residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Maricopa AZ area and throughout Arizona, you'll need to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to be sure that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Maricopa AZ physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Maricopa AZ area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required 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 completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Maricopa AZ clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Maricopa medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size 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 likely want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate 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 also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Maricopa AZ home. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally 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 even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Maricopa AZ area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Maricopa Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Maricopa Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Maricopa Arizona.


 

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