Physical therapy and its related fields are experiencing tremendous growth, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, this strong trend will continue to outpace growth in all other job areas through 2018 at a projected rate of 30 percent per year. The physical therapy, occupational therapy, massage therapy and aromatherapy fields, including specialists in sports and conditioning, will find continued demand for their skills in the job market. PTSchools.com offers information on degree programs for each discipline, while focusing mainly on the physical therapy field. Read on to learn what information you need and how to evaluate the various degree programs and options.
What Types of Degrees Do Physical Therapy Programs Offer?
Physical therapy programs offer a range of degree options. Depending on the amount of time you want to invest in your education, degree programs include a two-year associate-level degree, a four-year pre-physical therapy degree, physical therapy master’s degrees and physical therapy doctorate degrees.
Some people gain exposure to the field of physical therapy through a job as a physical therapy aide. This position does not require a degree, and it provides on-the-job training and initial exposure to the field. Individuals may progress from a physical therapy aide to a physical therapy assistant after completing a two-year specialized associate-level degree program. Some physical therapy assistants choose to continue on and complete a four-year baccalaureate degree. Those wishing to further their education and become a physical therapist must complete at least a master’s degree, and many go on to pursue doctorate degrees.
How Can You Judge the Quality of a Program?
Each person has their own needs when it comes to choosing a physical therapy degree program. Some schools offer better programs than others, and the following criteria can help narrow down your list of choices.
- Does the school have class openings or is the program impacted? Do they offer a waitlist?
- Financial aid – what does the school offer? Are they willing and able to assemble a financial aid package that includes grants and tuition-work programs as well as loans?
- Where is the school located? For on-campus schools, commute time is an important detail to consider.
- What student services does the school provide? Do they offer free tutoring? On-campus day care?
- Does the school have an employment office to help graduates find jobs and internships? Find out the placement rate and the school’s overall graduate rate. Ask where most alumni end up finding permanent jobs.
- Find out about any new facilities or other enhancements the school has added for their physicial therapy programs.
- Request brochures and other information from each school you want to pursue.
- Review the school’s ranking on the USNews website’s annual report of college rankings.
Do I Need to Complete an Accredited Program?
Each state requires a degree from an accredited school before granting a license to work as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. The American Physical Therapy Association has an accrediting body that requires schools to meet certain quality parameters before they can become accredited. This ensures that each student receives a quality education in return for their tuition money. Verify that a program is accredited before putting it on your list of prospects.
Online vs. On-Campus Programs
With the increasing integration of the Internet into school curriculums, more online school degree programs are being offered every day. Review online school programs carefully; accreditation is a must. Compare prices as well. Some online schools charge more for the convenience of helping you learn at home. Online degree programs provide the most flexibility, and work very well for those with obligations that prevent them from attending on-campus classes. Degree programs taking place on a campus have other things to offer, such as use of a gym, health care facility, day care and other amenities the school provides to its students. The trade-offs are the less-flexible class schedules and commute back and forth from your home to the school.
How Much Do Physical Therapy Degree Programs Cost?
The cost of a physical therapy education program varies based on your school and degree choices. Attending a school in your state is likely to cost less than a school in another state, and larger schools may be able to provide more grant money based on larger endowment funds and other grant sources. When reviewing the cost for on-campus schools, find out if the tuition includes the cost of room and board. You may find that living off-campus can reduce your overall costs.
The physical therapy field is broad and includes a number of specialized jobs, including teaching and research positions. Interested individuals have the opportunity to get involved in the field at several different levels, and the ongoing growth of the industry will continue to create more opportunities. If you think a career in physical therapy is right for you, set your sites on completing a degree program. Let PTSchools.com help you find a quality school that meets your flexibility and affordability needs, so that you can get started on a new and exciting chapter of your life today.