How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Albertville Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Albertville AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in diverse settings, such as Albertville AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Albertville AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Albertville AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Albertville AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
By now you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Albertville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Find out if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Albertville AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Albertville AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with Albertville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Albertville healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Albertville AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Albertville AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Albertville Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Albertville Alabama.