How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy College Near Atmore Alabama
Earning a physical therapy degree near Atmore AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Atmore AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Atmore AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Atmore AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Degrees Online
Although not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Atmore AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Atmore AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Atmore AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Atmore AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have associations with Atmore AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Atmore healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Atmore AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Atmore AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Atmore Physical Therapist School
Picking the best physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Atmore Alabama.