How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Clanton Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Clanton AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must 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 work in varying locations, such as Clanton AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Clanton AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Therapy Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Clanton AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be 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 degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 three years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Clanton AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Clanton AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you need to make sure that you pick the college that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Clanton AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Clanton AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Clanton AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Clanton healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized 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 decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Clanton AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can offer 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 Clanton AL area, make certain 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 enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Clanton Physical Therapy School
Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is an important first decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT 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 school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach 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 appropriate choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Clanton Alabama.