Physical therapy is becoming an in demand job nowadays and is also one of the fastest growing professions in the health care industry according to the report released by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. The fast growth in employment opportunities for future physical therapists came from the growing population of aging baby boomers and the advancements in medical technologies and practices. If you want to be a health care professional and you are looking for a stable and well-paid career, then a career in physical therapy will be a good option.
However, not everyone is cut for such important and hardworking career. To become a good and successful physical therapist, you need to have the passion to help other people especially with medical and health needs. You should be interested and inclined to health, science and various medical-related courses to appreciate and enjoy physical therapy profession. If you think this career is for you and you want to become a licensed physical therapist in the future, then one of the first things you should plan is your physical therapy education.
Choosing The Right Program
According to APTA or the American Physical Therapy Association, a person must at least achieve a master’s degree in physical therapy to qualify for the licensure exam for physical therapists and in order to earn the title licensed PT. However, most of the programs offered in the country are a doctorate degree, which is an upgraded and longer version of the master’s program. Finishing this kind of physical therapy degree program does not only qualify graduates for the national licensure exam but also opens better and greater career opportunities. Master’s degree programs in physical therapy usually take 2 years of study for completion while doctorate degree programs in physical therapy require at least 3 years of study.
Based on the same report released by APTA, there are about 203 doctorate degree programs in physical therapy that are fully recognized and accredited by the organization and 9 accredited master’s degree programs. While a pre-PT undergraduate program can be a great choice if you really are decided to proceed to higher physical therapy education program later on, taking any health or physical therapy-related undergraduate program is fine as long as the units you obtained will complete the prerequisites required in the physical therapy graduate programs.
Choosing The School
Once you have decided what to take in college, the next step is to choose the best school suitable to your needs and career goals. As mentioned above, the first step when looking for a school is to look for accredited physical therapy schools and programs. This will narrow down your list to the ones that are accredited only so you can ensure that whatever school you will choose from the list, the school is fully accredited. To confirm the accreditation, inquire from the CAPTE or the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.
Another important factor to consider is tuition and cost of living in the area where the school is located. Expected expenses and tuitions may vary from school to school due to geographic location, school’s reputation, quality of education offered, and cost of living in the particular area or region. Taxes vary from place to place which also affects cost of living. Even if the prospective school you have in mind offered lower tuition compared to other schools but cost of living in the area is way higher than in other place, then enrolling in that school may not be cost-effective for you especially if you are not that financially well-off.
If you are having financial problems in supporting your physical therapy education plans, then the next step you should take is to search for financial education assistance. If the school offers grants and scholarships, apply to all of them as much as possible to increase your chances of qualifying for a financial assistance. You can also look for work study programs since aside from lessening the financial burden you can also gain experience if your job is related to physical therapy jobs. Loans can also be a good option but it should be your last resort.
The passing rate of the school in terms of national licensure exam for physical therapists should also be taken into consideration. According to experts, the passing rate is a reflection of the quality of physical therapy education offered by the school. This means that if the prospective school you want to enrol in have high passing rate over the last 3 to 5 years, the school is providing an excellent physical therapy program.
Another very important factor that is usually overlooked by some students is the opportunity for clinical placement and assistantships. This factor is very important since unlike other courses, physical therapy is a health care profession that require clinical and supervised training before they can graduate. Enrolling in a school near many possible employment opportunities in the future or near assistantship jobs can make earning of experience easier as well as job hunting.
Online Physical Therapy Schools
If you are not comfortable with on-campus education or you are just simply too busy to travel from home to school, or from your workplace to school every day, then an online physical therapy program might be the right education for you. A lot of accredited schools are now offering online physical therapy education for aspiring PTs especially for those who lack basic resources like time and money to enrol in a traditional education program.
However, before enrolling in an online physical therapy school, make sure that you are prepared for the type of education system since enrolling in an online program requires more focus, determination, and concentration. 100% online physical therapy programs are also not possible since physical therapy education requires hands-on training and volunteer experience before a student can graduate. If you see online schools claiming to offer 100% online education, be doubtful and research about the school’s accreditation since most likely the program offered by the school is not accredited by CAPTE.