I had an awesome experience earning my degree and hope you have the same. If you are searching for colleges, read on!
Cheryl Hall, OT
Author and Illustrator, Physical Therapy Toolkit
Choosing a school that will launch your PT career and start your life of helping others is a big decision. How do you know which program will give you the best opportunity to become a great physical therapist? As you take time to research and compare programs, think: employable, affordable and enjoyable.
After you walk across that stage, you want your choice of jobs. So which school will deliver the most “employable” you?
Accreditation – Make sure the program is fully accredited; in the U. S., the APTA website lists accredited programs. If you do not graduate from an accredited program, then you are not eligible to sit for the NPTE certification examination. This leads to the next bit of information you need to research.
Additional Certifications – Does the school offer the opportunity to earn additional certifications along with your degree? Adding certifications for patient groups or specific therapies will make you more employable at graduation.
Fieldwork Opportunities – Does the program require both Level I and II fieldwork? What typical fieldwork experiences are offered? Do they have a facility on campus to observe PT in action and translate classroom lectures into hands-on practice?
Graduation Rate – What is the average graduation rate from both the institution and program? Lower graduation rates can mean the school does not have good student supports in place.
Every school has a department devoted to helping you locate potential financial aid. Take advantage of this resource while you explore other ways to lower the cost of your degree.
Multiple Degrees – Does the school offer the degree that you ultimately want to earn? Staying at the same institution avoids losing credits when transferring coursework from another school. Also, once you earn an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree you have the credentials to work in the OT field while pursuing the next step.
Fellowships and Assistantships – Does the school offer any paid opportunities to work on campus in the PT department? You will earn income and have something else to add to your resume.
Graduate on Time – Every semester, your classes should be chosen because they are vital to your degree. The longer you are enrolled, the more it will cost you. Find out how long it takes the typical student to graduate and whether the school has a strong network of academic advisors in place.
Loan Payback –While physical therapists earn an attractive salary, make sure you will be comfortable making your student loan payments. Ask what the average debt a graduate from the program carries. Remember, you must pay every dollar of student loans plus interest within 10 years of graduation.
This will be your home for several years and the place you begin to build your network of colleagues; so make sure it fits your personality and personal goals.
Life On and Off Campus –If you are a city person at heart and the campus is tiny and located in a small town you might not find the fit that you need. If you are an outdoor enthusiast, then an urban setting might not be for you. Or it could be just the change you were looking for! Visiting a school while classes are in session is a great way to get the vibe of the school.
Other Majors – Going to a school with a diverse offering of majors gives you the chance to meet people outside of your field. Also, if you find the choice of PT was not the best one for you, you have an opportunity to switch majors without switching schools.
Culture – Look at the mission statement of the institution and the PT program. Does it feel right and mesh with your outlook on life? Are you going to be proud to be a member of the institution?
Study Abroad – if the opportunity to study abroad is really important to you, check out the offerings within the PT program. Not every program has this component, and if you study abroad you may not graduate as soon.
With over 500 accredited physical therapy programs in the U. S., considering a variety of factors, including employable, affordable and enjoyable, will help you pick the program that is best for you.