How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Fairfield Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Fairfield AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Fairfield 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fairfield AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Fairfield AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to ready candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Colleges Online
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fairfield AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Fairfield AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you need to make sure that you select the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 enroll in an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Fairfield AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. It might 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 colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fairfield AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Fairfield AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Fairfield health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Fairfield AL residence. Students 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 importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairfield 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 have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Fairfield Physical Therapy School
Choosing the best physical therapy program is an important first decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed 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 should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Fairfield Alabama.