How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Gadsden Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Gadsden AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Gadsden AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Gadsden AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are three physical therapy degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Gadsden 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 a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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 phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Schools Online
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gadsden AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend 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 Gadsden AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at 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 choose an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call several Gadsden AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program options. It might also be prudent to check with 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 two important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gadsden AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college 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 practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have relationships with Gadsden AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Gadsden health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical student to teacher 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 talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Gadsden AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously 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 bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Gadsden AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Gadsden Physical Therapist School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide 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 program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gadsden Alabama.