How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Bessemer Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Bessemer AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary 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 college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Bessemer AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Bessemer AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become 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. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Bessemer AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some 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 attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Colleges
Although not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, 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 college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Bessemer AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
By now you probably have come to decision regarding some of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Bessemer AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned 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 college, 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 simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Bessemer AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Bessemer AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the Program 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 working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Bessemer AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Bessemer health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Bessemer AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to consider 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 for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Bessemer AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Bessemer Physical Therapy School
Choosing the best physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to view 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 options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Bessemer Alabama.