How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Auburn Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Auburn AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we cover 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 work in varying locations, including Auburn AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Auburn AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, 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. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Auburn AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as 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 be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a licensed practicing 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 total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Schools
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Auburn AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Auburn AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Auburn AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school selections. It might 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Auburn AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have relationships with Auburn AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Auburn medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Auburn AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Auburn AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Auburn Physical Therapy School
Selecting the best physical therapist college is an important first decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different colleges to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Auburn Alabama.