If you want to be a physical therapy assistant, most states require that you complete a two-year associate’s degree program. The good news is that as of 2011 there were 280 schools that offered such programs in the United States. These are schools that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education. Over the two years that you are in school, you will have to complete both academic and clinical coursework. Some of your classes will be the same as any of the other students completing associate’s degrees, even if they are not in your specialty. They include subjects like math, English, and psychology. Others will be of a clinical nature and will teach you about hands-on work in offices and hospitals. If you’ve made the decision to go to such a school, you’ve taken the first step! But with so many schools to choose from, you may have trouble making a decision. Here are a few questions to ask yourself when deciding where to go.
How far are you willing to travel for school?
If you don’t have any ties to your current city and have been looking for an excuse to move somewhere else anyway, you might consider relocating to go to a good school. You can look up the top programs online and, if you aren’t in any other way limited, move to whichever city that has a top school! Most people, however, won’t have such freedom in their decision-making. If you need to stay in your area, either because you have a job, a family, or some other anchoring factor, you can always look up whichever ones are in your area. If you live in a major city, the chances are you’ll still have multiple options from which to choose. In that case, you might want to compare commutes and consider differing details between the programs.
How much are you willing to pay?
The tuition rates at each school will vary based on a variety of factors, including the quality of the school and the city in which it is located. You probably won’t see a huge difference though, since no matter what you’ll have to go to school for two years (more or less, this number could increase or decrease depending on how quickly you complete classes). In this case, you’ll see the most difference in how much schools can save you based on what kind of financial aid and scholarships they offer. Especially if money is tight, consider calling up someone at the financial aid office of each school and inquire about how you can get your tuition reduced.
How flexible is your schedule?
Especially if you have familial or work obligations, you might not have the luxury of going to school for a few hours during the day Monday through Friday. Instead, you might need to put all our classes on only two days, go at nights or during the weekend, take classes online, go part time, or attend classes in the summer as well. Nowadays more colleges are catering to the needs of non-traditional students and offering more accommodating schedules, but it’s still a good idea to find out exactly how flexible you can be.
What kinds of classes do you want to take?
Despite the fact that you will only be looking at associate’s programs for physical therapy assisting, not all programs were created equal. No matter where you go you’ll leave with a degree, but the classes will vary within this. Do you want to take more general education classes, or more in clinical practice? Do you prefer working in a classroom or in a simulated office environment? Are you interested in any specific class, such as classes in kinesiology, techniques, or rehabilitation? The more research you do before hand, the more likely you are to find the right school for you with a large number of classes you will enjoy.