How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Atmore Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Atmore AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered along with 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 what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Atmore AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. 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 struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Atmore AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Atmore AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 three years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
While not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Atmore AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Atmore AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Atmore AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Atmore AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with Atmore AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Atmore medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher 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 a lot of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Atmore AL residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Atmore AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Atmore Physical Therapist School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Atmore Alabama.