How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Hartselle Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Hartselle AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to make certain they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Hartselle AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Hartselle AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Hartselle AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 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 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 three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some 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 offered in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Programs Online
Although not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hartselle AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Hartselle AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are considering have received 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Hartselle AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hartselle AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have relationships with Hartselle AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Hartselle medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at 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 ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Hartselle AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Hartselle AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option 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 might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Hartselle Physical Therapist School
Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is an important initial decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that many factors will guide you to your final decision. You might want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Hartselle Alabama.