How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Dothan Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Dothan AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are looking at to make sure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Dothan AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Dothan AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise 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 heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable 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 progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Dothan AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.
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. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
Although not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy 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 necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Dothan AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Dothan AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you select the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy College 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 enroll in an online college, it may also obtain 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 simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Dothan AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program selections. It might also be prudent to check with 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 need to know about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Dothan AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select provides 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Dothan AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Dothan medical community and help with job placement after licensing.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Dothan AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Dothan AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Dothan Physical Therapy School
Selecting the best physical therapy college is an important initial decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Dothan Alabama.