How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Florence Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Florence AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Florence AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Florence AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Florence AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as 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 GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several 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 phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs 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 college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Florence AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Florence AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 enroll in an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing 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 therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Florence AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college selections. 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 schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Florence AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that supports 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have partnerships with Florence AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Florence medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical 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 an opportunity to converse with a few 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 school they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Florence AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Florence AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check 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 due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Florence Physical Therapy School
Deciding on the best physical therapy college is an important first decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Florence Alabama.