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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Maricopa Arizona

Maricopa Arizona physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Maricopa AZ is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. 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's Job Description?

Maricopa Arizona DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Maricopa AZ private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Maricopa AZ health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Maricopa Arizona physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Maricopa AZ area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must 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. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Maricopa Arizona woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Maricopa AZ home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Maricopa AZ area and across Arizona, you'll have to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 enroll in an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Maricopa AZ physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact the Arizona Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school'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 field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in provides both superior 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Maricopa AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive 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 may assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Maricopa health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Maricopa AZ residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online 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 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Maricopa AZ area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Maricopa Online Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Right Maricopa Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach 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 necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Maricopa Arizona.


 

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