How to Select the Right Physical Therapist School Near Hartselle Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Hartselle AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Hartselle AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Hartselle AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Hartselle AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the extensive 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 available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Schools Online
Although not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hartselle AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, 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 alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Hartselle AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Find out if the schools you are looking at have received 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 select an online college, it may also receive 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, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting 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 also. Get in touch with some Hartselle AL physical therapist centers 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 college options. It may 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 schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Hartselle 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 perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have associations with Hartselle AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Hartselle healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Hartselle AL residence. Students who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. 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 may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Hartselle AL area, check that they are available. 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 have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Hartselle Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve 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 appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Hartselle Alabama.