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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Maricopa Arizona

Maricopa Arizona physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Maricopa AZ is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select 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 need to be evaluated in addition to 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Maricopa Arizona DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Maricopa AZ private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Maricopa AZ medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, 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 Therapy Degree Options

Maricopa Arizona physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Maricopa Arizona woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more 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 near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Maricopa AZ residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Maricopa AZ area and throughout Arizona, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you need to make certain that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate 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 therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Maricopa AZ physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school options. 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 colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Maricopa 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 confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Arizona or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Maricopa AZ hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Maricopa health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Maricopa AZ home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Maricopa AZ area, make sure that they are available. 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 procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Maricopa Online Physical Therapist Courses

Choose the Right Maricopa Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Maricopa Arizona.


 

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