How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Bay Minette Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Bay Minette AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides 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 the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Bay Minette AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Bay Minette AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Bay Minette AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Degrees Online
Although not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to 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 an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Bay Minette AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Bay Minette AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you choose the school that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 choose an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Bay Minette AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once 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 Bay Minette AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select furnishes both superior 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 therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Bay Minette AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Bay Minette health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Bay Minette AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Bay Minette AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Bay Minette Physical Therapy School
Choosing the best physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Bay Minette Alabama.