Physical Therapy Schools - Become A Qualified Physical Therapist In U.S.
To become a qualified practicing physical therapist in the United States you can either pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) or Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree .
By far the most common option offered by accredited physical therapy schools is the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree. However some schools still offer Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree programs.
In 2009 The American Physical Therapy Association reported that there were a total of 215 accredited physical therapist programs being offered in the United States. 200 of these (93%) were Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree programs and the remaining 15 (7%) were Master of Physical Therapy (MPT) degree programs however most of these are now in transition to become DTP programs.
Both the DPT and MPT education programs include clinical internships which need to be completed to qualify for the degree. In addition to this, physical therapists are required to pass the National Physical Therapy Examination before they are eligible to practice anywhere in the United States.
Physical Therapy Schools
Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants enjoy some of the highest job satisfaction rates across the country, and these careers are routinely turning up at the top of the lists of the best jobs. It's a rewarding career and a dynamic workplace, one that is in demand and offers high salaries, allows you to help and interact with people every day, and more. But before you can begin your great new career, you have to go to school. In order to do that, you need to know what to expect, what options at your disposal and how you'll be able to get started.
Use this guide to learn everything you need to know about physical therapy schools, and physical therapy assistant schools. From the course structure of your program to accreditation and licensure, from the cost of school to how to choose your program and more, you'll find it all out right here.
Accreditation for Physical Therapy Schools & Physical Therapy Assistant Schools
One of the most important things to know about schools offering both physical therapy and physical therapy assistant programs and degrees is that to be legitimate they must be fully accredited by CAPTE. CAPTE is the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, and they are the main organization and governing body for the entire field. In order to obtain your license and work as a professional, you have to graduate from a CAPTE program.
Types of Degrees and Programs Available
Depending on whether you want to pursue physical therapy or a career as a physical therapy assistant, there are several different types of degrees and programs available. As mentioned above, any program you enroll with must be CAPTE accredited in order to make it both legitimate and worthwhile.
For those interested in a career as a PTA, physical therapy assistant schools offer two year associates degree programs. These programs typically span five semesters over that time, and include several months of clinical, in the field work to gain the real hands-on experience you need for your career. Right now, there are 276 accredited PTA schools all across the United States, and more are always being added to the list.
If you want to become a fully licensed and practicing physical therapist, you'll see that there are still plenty of programs and PT schools to choose from. The latest tally from CAPTE shows that there are 212 physical therapy schools and programs in the United States, and that figure is growing as well.
Right now, you can find some programs which offer a masters degree in the field, but the majority, 203 of 212, offer a PhD or doctorate degree, known as a DPT. That will also become the standard in short order, and masters degrees eventually won't be offered at all for physical therapy. Therefore, if you want to be a physical therapist and are beginning your journey today, make sure to pursue a doctorate program with CAPTE accreditation, and not a masters.
One of the most important factors to think about when going back to school will be the cost of your degree. For DPT programs, the average tuition and fees rate as of 2008 was $11,410 for a public in-state school, $21,684 for a public out of state school, and $25,364 for a private school, and as mentioned, degree programs last three years, putting the total cost at between $34,000 and $76,000.
For PTA schools, the costs were reduced, coming in at an average of about $7,800 for public in-state schools and up to $26,493 for private schools, but only for two years of schooling rather than three, putting estimated costs at between $16,000 and $50,0000. It's important to keep in mind that there are many PT and PTA schools scholarships available offered through CAPTE, APTA, which is the American Physical Therapy Association and other organizations on top of the standard scholarships available to students of all kinds from universities and school loans.
Physical therapy assistant programs will typically last about two years, while physical therapy programs resulting in doctorate degrees will last more like three years in length.
For a doctorate in physical therapy, you'll begin your program with core classes such as biomechanics, pathologies, kinesiology, and more. You'll also need a minimum of six months of direct clinical experience, which will come at the end of your program, and represent about 20% of your studies.
The bulk of your program, the remaining 80%, will be spent in the classroom, digesting knowledge and learning the ropes. Physical therapists will also need to spend time taking courses and practicing areas such as diagnosis, developing treatment plans, patient evaluation, and more.
Physical therapy assistant schools will also require direct clinical experience, in this case accounting for about 25% of your work, but lasting for a shorter amount of time in the range of two to four months. Many of the same core classes will be taken to begin your program.
Are Physical Therapy Degrees Offered Online?
There are no physical therapy or physical therapy assistant programs or degrees which are offered fully online. This makes sense when you think about it, since physical therapy is literally such a hands-on job.
While the world of technology and distance learning has improved dramatically in the last decade, you can never replace gaining actual, real-world experience, and practicing and learning physical techniques. There are some programs which offer a portion of their classroom work through an online format, but as mentioned, there are no purely online degrees.
There are many different things to think about when you're trying to choose the right PT school or PTA school for you.
Location: Since there are no fully online programs, location is key for physical therapy schools. For most people, choosing a program located in the state you'd like to work in is the best choice. This will ensure that you know all of your local regulations for licensure, and will help you to develop relationships in the community which can pay off down the road. Location also affects the cost of your tuition and in-state schools have dramatically lower rates.
Students and Faculty: How many students are in the program, and what are their demographics in terms of age and background? What is the faculty to student ratio, and what are the faculty like?
Work Opportunities: Does your school provide job placement, internships or other work opportunities? Do they have partnerships with local hospitals and clinics? What is their employment rate for new graduates?
Graduation and Licensure: What percentage of students obtain their degrees? How many obtain them on time? What percentage of students obtain full licensure immediately?
Admissions: What are the specific admission requirements of your school? Do you have the right GPA level, incoming degree, background, prerequisites and more to meet their standards?
These are just a few of the key elements to think about when choosing between different programs. From campus setting to specific program and course details, there is much else to consider as well.
Moving from PT & PTA Schools to Licensure
No matter what career path or program you enrolled with, how do you move from your schooling to your actual career? After successful completion of your program and graduation with your degree, you'll have to take a national exam in order to get your license. Some states may require an additional exam or an extra step for full licensure, so be sure to learn all about any local requirements or regulations to be sure you're all set.
From there, once you have your license, many states also mandate a certain number of ongoing education and learning credits to maintain your status as a fully licensed professional. These shouldn't be difficult to manage, and will also help you to stay up to date on all of the latest best practices, standards and emerging trends.
Hopefully by now you've learned all about physical therapy schools and physical therapy assistant schools. There's a lot to digest and know, but all of the above knowledge will ensure that you know exactly what you need to do and what's expected of you. You have multiple degree types and hundreds of programs at your disposal, just be sure you're going to a school with CAPTE accreditation, and you find the best program and school to match your own circumstances.
There are over 200 schools to choose between, so you won’t be lacking for options. Find something that not only meshes with your needs, desires and interests, but also is a match for your background in terms of entrance and admissions requirements or standards. If you do all of this, you’ll be able to find an ideal physical therapy school to enroll with, and you’ll be that much closer to beginning your new career.
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