How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Demopolis Alabama
Earning a physical therapy degree near Demopolis AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are looking at to make certain they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must 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 the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in diverse settings, such as Demopolis AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Demopolis AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Demopolis AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may 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 typically offered by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and usually 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 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 overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
Although not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Demopolis AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Demopolis AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you pick the program 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 schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Ask if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online school, it can also earn 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 just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Demopolis AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college 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 submitted against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Demopolis 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 perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have relationships with Demopolis AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Demopolis healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Demopolis AL home. Individuals who have chosen 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 concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Demopolis AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. 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 Best Demopolis Physical Therapy School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch 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 outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school 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 right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Demopolis Alabama.