Physical therapist student interest in full-time faculty positions

Joyce L Mac Kinnon, R Dennis Leighton
Journal of Allied Health 2002, 31 (2): 70-7
A strong demand exists for allied health faculty in institutions of higher education. This study focused on physical therapists for the purposes of: 1) determining student physical therapist interest in full-time faculty positions at some point in their professional careers, 2) identifying factors that might influence student interest in full-time faculty positions at some point in their careers, and 3) being able to suggest ways in which students might be encouraged to consider academic careers in the future. Twenty-nine accredited professional physical therapist programs gave permission for their graduating students to be surveyed; 1,160 surveys were sent out, and 1,037 usable surveys were returned (89% return rate). Of the 1,037 respondents, 569 students (59%) expressed an interest in pursuing a full-time faculty position at some point in their career. Demographic data were reported, and chi 2 was used to analyze survey results statistically. The items that were statistically significant with regard to interest in a full-time faculty position were: 1) a physical therapist instructor had encouraged a student to pursue a full-time faculty position, 2) the student had a learning experience in which a faculty position was discussed as a career option, and 3) the student had a parent who was employed in education. Physical therapist faculty members were identified by students as the group with the greatest influence on a student's decision to choose an academic career. Students identified the following factors as negatives for pursuing full-time faculty positions: 1) having to be engaged in research projects, 2) being restricted to treating patients only occasionally, and 3) being required to speak before groups. The results of this study suggested methods that physical therapist faculty might employ to recruit students to academia, such as providing individual encouragement, discussing faculty positions as a career option, providing opportunity for students to become more comfortable with aspects of research and with public speaking, and informing students that in many academic settings one still can treat patients. Further research is needed to determine if these results can be generalized to other allied health professions.

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