Physical Therapy School
Physical Therapist Education
To become a physical therapist requires graduation from one of the around 208 accredited physical therapy schools. Physical therapy programs are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, or CAPTE, which is part of the American Physical Therapy Association, or APTA. Physical therapist schools have limited class sizes and can receive numerous applications, for example Northern Arizona University’s entering class of fall 2009 had 526 applications with 48 students accepted. Each school has prerequisite requirements which include certain courses to be taken and can require the completion of an undergraduate degree. Required courses can include anatomy and physiology, chemistry, physics, psychology, general biology and general education classes like English, social science, and humanities.
In the past the majority of schools offered baccalaureate or master’s degrees but the transition is being made where the CAPTE is not longer accrediting baccalaureate programs and will discontinue accrediting professional programs in 2016. Instead, of those two options, a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) will be conferred as the post- baccalaureate degree. Currently there are 203 accredited programs that offer the DPT degree and 9 that offer the master’s. All physical therapy schools, old and new, will eventually adopt the DPT degree option. Physical therapy education generally last 3 years with the last year for extended clinical experience. There are programs that accept high school students to earn a bachelor’s degree and a DPT degree in 6 or 7 years. Husson University is an example that has a 6 year DPT and Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology program. There is usually a mix of didactic classes on subjects like biomechanics, kinesiology, orthopedics, pharmacology, and course on rehabilitation, clinical sciences lab work, and clinical training with experience in direct patient care under a PT’s supervision.
After graduating and acquiring a license, a physical therapist can also further their designation by becoming a clinical specialist. There are 8 specialty areas, cardiovascular & pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, sports, and women’s health. Each has specific requirements for applicants including 2,000 hours of work experience directly involving patients in the area of specialty chosen. The American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties is responsible for physical therapist clinical specialty testing which is a computerized exam approximately 200 questions in length.
Applying to Physical Therapist School
The application process to physical therapist schools has improved with Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service, or PTCAS, which allows applicants to apply information and other necessary documents like transcripts and letters of reference to one central place and apply to several institutes at once without having to apply to all of the schools separately. The system provides program specific data like requirements and other needs, allows tracking of application, minimizes errors and omissions, and a bunch of other benefits. Although not all schools, many physical therapy education programs have already moved to the PTCAS system. As of April, 2010 there were over 100 participating institutions.
Each school has its own requirements for acceptance into the physical therapy program and with the move of the accreditation to graduate level study completion of an at least a baccalaureate degree and GRE scores are required. Other requirements may include letters of reference from specific individuals, volunteer or shadowing of a physical therapist, and prerequisite courses. Many physical therapy programs also set a minimum cumulative GPA and GRE score.
Cost of Physical Therapy Education
Physical therapy education is at a post baccalaureate level and last generally for 3 years. The cost will vary between the schools with factors such as location, schools size, and public or private designations. At Northern Arizona University, a public school, the estimated cost of tuition for residents was $25,506 and for non-residents the cost was $57,828 for the 2009-2010 academic year. At Columbia University, a private school, the cost of tuition was $84,500 for the same year. Loma Linda University, another private school, the cost of tuition was estimate at $82,832. Private school tends to be higher in cost but can be an option for non-residents when comparing costs at some public schools.