How to Choose the Best Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapy school is an important step towards getting underway in this growing and in-demand profession. Luckily, there are many physical therapy programs available to prospective students today, but it’s important to understand not only what they offer, but what you should be looking for, and what else you need to know about these programs in general.

Today, there are a total of 212 physical therapy programs in the United States. This count includes only accredited schools, with the accreditation being provided by the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Graduation from a CAPTE accredited physical therapy school is of the utmost importance, as you will be unable to take the licensure exam, obtain a license, and practice in the field without it. Therefore, that’s the first element you’ll need to look for with any program. This is aalso important because the schools and colleges with official certifications are the ones that have reached the criteria for high quality education. What this signifies for you personally is that you will receive a training and coursework which are current and really suitable for practical application. Most importantly, excellent training will add to the chances of you passing the licensure examination.

Select The Right Type of Degree

You will also need to think about what kind of degree you’re looking for, and how long you are planning or willing to go back into school. The vast majority of accredited physical therapy programs are for doctorate level degrees, with only a select few offering masters degrees. The ratio is 200 to 12 in favor of doctorate degrees, which will take about three years to complete, versus the two years of completion for masters degrees. There is not any accredited physical therapy school providing a bachelors degree in the field at this time.

Consider The Prerequisite Requirements

Before applying, it’s also important to think about the requirements of the different programs you may be considering. In almost all cases, a specific bachelors degree major or type is not needed, however most commonly, students come from exercise science, kinesiology or similar backgrounds. You’ll typically need to take and pass the GRE exam, and certain prerequisites or grade levels may be required by different programs.

Compare The Program Structure

From there, you’ll need to start evaluating an individual physical therapy school based on what they are offering to you. What is their curriculum and the core components of the program itself, who are the faculty, how many students will be in your classes, and so forth. Other factors to consider include any employment partnerships or programs after graduation, internship opportunities, the rate of successful licensure and employment, and more.

Choose a School that has a High Licensure Passing Rate

On this note it is important to mention that you understand that no physical therapy graduate student is able to practice without passing the National Physical Therapy examination. So you would want to go to a school that will help you easily pass the licensure test. To find a physical therapy school that gives the most effective instruction, you can check out the list of state examination passers and then determine from what college/university they come from. The very best physical therapist schools or universities should belong to the top 10 or 20 list. Obviously, the higher the licensure passing rate, the higher quality of the PT school.

Select a Physical Therapist School Offering Great Clinical Education Programs

At the end of the day, your job as a physical therapist shall be all about personally dealing with affected individuals. That said, the ideal physical therapist school is one that will provide you with adequate exposure and knowledge by real life training. You should know if a particular physical therapy college has affiliations with particular healthcare establishments or hospitals. You should check out the website of the physical therapy universities you are looking to join and find out what their connections are as well as the internship programs they offer their students.

Other Factors

In addition, all of the typical components of choosing schools will need to be considered as well. This means the geographic location of the school, the cost of education and whether financial assistance is provided, and so forth. The following factors that will affect your schooling should also be considered:

  • Specific requirements for admission
  • Course curriculum and structure
  • How long the school has been teaching physical therapy
  • The reputation of the school throughout the industry
  • Demographics of the students
  • The location and setting of the campus
  • The size of the school or university
  • The size of the physical therapy program’s 1st year class
  • Types of training and clinical education opportunities
  • Length of the program
  • Type of degree and qualification awarded
  • Physical Therapist licensure exam pass rates for the school
  • University cost, financial aid and scholarship opportunities
  • Additional extracurricular activities available
  • Quality and Rate of employment for graduates of the school
  • School Facilities.  ie Labs, classrooms, equipment

Clearly, there are many different factors to consider as you’re choosing between physical therapy programs. 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.

Next:  Summary of Physical Therapy Education and Training

Find a School:  Physical Therapy Schools or Physical Therapy Assistant Schools


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