According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist jobs and physical therapist assistant jobs will remain in the top 30, fastest growing careers, at least through the year 2018. Whether you’re a high school graduate looking at college programs or an adult making a career change, you have to start by choosing physical therapy education and training based on your own goals and time commitments.
Consider this: If you want to be working in the physical therapy field in a couple of years, then a two-year physical therapist assistant program might be best for you, and you’ll graduate with an Associate’s degree. Or, if your ultimate goal is becoming a physical therapist, then you need to pursue a five or six-year Master’s (MPT) or Doctorate (DPT) degree program. Keep in mind that more and more employers are looking for physical therapists with a DPT designation upon hire, primarily due to law changes requiring entry-level PTs to hold a doctorate degree.
After you’ve chosen your physical therapy career track, you have to find the right school and program for you. Use the “Best of…” lists that are published by various publications and organizations as a resource, not a decision-maker. Remember: It’s not about which school you attend; it’s about what you make of the available opportunities. Any school that has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) has to abide by the same program standards as other accredited programs. Choose a nearby, accredited school that will best support your educational pursuits, and remember: only CAPTE accredited schools can offer national licensing testing, which is necessary to be either a PT or a PTA. Check out the APTA’s website to locate an accredited program near you.
• Find out how many volunteer or patient-care hours are required before applying to the program, as well as other details of the program curriculum. Some schools require more hours of direct patient contact than others, prior to acceptance into a program.
• Similarly, you’ll want to find out what clinical requirements and affiliations your school has to offer once you’re in the program. In addition to education and hands-on training, school is a great time to start your professional network.
• Be sure to ask about the graduation and licensure pass rates. Low pass rates may say a lot the school’s faculty or student support services, and you need to be sure you set yourself up for the best educational experience possible, no matter which area of study you are choosing. Just because two schools have earned their respective accreditations, doesn’t guarantee that programs are implemented the same ways.
• Costs of programs and scholarships available vary greatly between schools. Be sure you find out how much a program will cost, and learn about scholarships or other financial assistance available, so you can best budget your finances to get through your program.
Committing your life to a physical therapy career is a rewarding choice, but be sure you start off by choosing the best program that prepares you to be a successful physical therapist or physical therapist assistant. Do your research and ask questions, and you’ll get started off on the right track with confidence!
Whether you’re a new graduate in physical therapy looking for a job, an experienced physical therapist looking to change your job, or trying to work part-time while furthering your education, MAS Medical Staffing can help you find a position that meets your goals. Contact us today!