You often hear about attending an accredited physical therapy school, and you may wonder what that means—how a program is accredited and why it is important. Like any other professional program, physical therapy school has to provide you with a minimum number of hours of instruction so that you have a basic skill set before you are licensed and practice physical therapy. A school can choose whether to be accredited. The government is not involved, and it is done by peer review, meaning a group of people who belong to the profession of the school being accredited is involved in the process.
The Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE) is the agency that accredits physical therapy schools. They accredit both physical therapy and physical therapy assistant programs all over the country. The commission is made up of twenty-nine people from all aspects of physical therapy, including: physical therapy school professors, those who develop curriculum and administration, clinicians who practice and teach physical therapy, people in postsecondary education administration, and the public. This commission is nationally recognized by the US Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
CAPTE determines the rules for accreditation and the criteria that have to be met for accreditation. It assures that physical therapy schools maintain high quality standards in terms of education. They review curriculums and conduct on-site reviews of about seventy programs each year. Accreditation is not a permanent status, so a physical therapy school that was once accredited is not guaranteed to be accredited if it is determined that they failed to meet the CAPTE standards.
There are important reasons to assure the physical therapy school you want to attend is accredited. If you are going to need financial aid to pay for school, you can get only get it if you are going to attend a nationally accredited program. If you want to go beyond getting your master in physical therapy, you will have an advantage if you went to an accredited school because the admissions committee will know you have successfully completed a program with high standards.
Most physical therapy schools that are part of colleges and universities in the United States are accredited, but for online degree programs and schools outside the United States, it is very important to investigate if they are accredited. You can go to the American Physical Therapy Association website and find out which schools are accredited by CAPTE.