How to Find the Right Physical Therapist College Near Fairfield Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Fairfield AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate 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 school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to ensure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Fairfield AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Fairfield AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Fairfield 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 earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several 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 available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
While not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fairfield AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
By now you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Fairfield AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few Fairfield AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Fairfield AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select provides both excellent training and a course of study that supports 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ 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 additional tests.
Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have partnerships with Fairfield AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Fairfield healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Fairfield AL residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even 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 Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fairfield AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Fairfield Physical Therapy School
Selecting the right physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Fairfield Alabama.