How to Find the Right Physical Therapist School Near Fairfield Alabama
Earning a physical therapist degree near Fairfield AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Fairfield AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Fairfield AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Fairfield AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as 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 made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and often include 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 also must 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 total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently 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 offered in the United States. Some 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 Therapy Colleges Online
While not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairfield AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
By now you probably have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Fairfield AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you choose the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 select an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Fairfield AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fairfield AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose provides both excellent 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Fairfield AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Fairfield healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Fairfield AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally 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 keep 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 may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairfield AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Fairfield Physical Therapist School
Selecting the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairfield Alabama.