How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Fairhope Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Fairhope AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, 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 settings, such as Fairhope AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Fairhope AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as 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. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Fairhope AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 phased out and is no longer available in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
Although not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure 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 nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fairhope AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Fairhope AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to make certain that you choose the college that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Fairhope AL physical therapy clinics 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 selections. 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fairhope AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have relationships with Fairhope AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, 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 relationships in the Fairhope health care community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Fairhope AL home. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry 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 choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairhope AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Fairhope Physical Therapist School
Choosing the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairhope Alabama.