How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Hamilton Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Hamilton AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. 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 significant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss 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 practice in a variety of locations, including Hamilton AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Hamilton AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Hamilton AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Schools
While not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Hamilton AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Hamilton AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to make certain that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose 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 obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Hamilton AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hamilton AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have associations with Hamilton AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Hamilton medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.
What Size 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 undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Hamilton AL residence. Students who have decided 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. Something 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Hamilton AL area, verify that they are offered. 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 enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Hamilton Physical Therapy School
Picking the right physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hamilton Alabama.