How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Helena Alabama
Earning a physical therapy degree near Helena AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are considering to make sure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Helena AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring 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 practice in close partnerships with other Helena AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Helena AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may 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 degrees are most often made available by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Degrees Online
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Helena AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Helena AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you enroll in the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Ask if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 enroll in an online program, it can also obtain 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, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Helena AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Helena AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both superior 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Helena AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Helena medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average 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 decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Helena AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Helena AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Helena Physical Therapist School
Selecting the best physical therapy college is an important first decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Helena Alabama.