How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Maricopa Arizona
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Maricopa AZ is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we cover 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's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Maricopa AZ private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Maricopa AZ medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are three physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Maricopa AZ area:
- Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element along with the extensive 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
Although not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of 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 integrated 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 portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Maricopa AZ home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you most likely have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Maricopa AZ area and across Arizona, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make sure that you enroll in the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously 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 choose an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Maricopa AZ physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact 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 Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Maricopa AZ area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both excellent 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have relationships with Maricopa AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Maricopa medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. 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 talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Maricopa AZ residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps 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 typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid department and see what type of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Maricopa AZ area, make certain 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 enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Maricopa Physical Therapy School
Picking the ideal physical therapist program is an important initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Maricopa Arizona.