How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Homewood Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Homewood AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare 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 need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about 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?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Homewood 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 earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Homewood AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, 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 Degree Options
There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in 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 focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Homewood AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare 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 made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Schools Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many 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 incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Homewood AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you probably have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Homewood AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Homewood AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program selections. 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Homewood AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose furnishes 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have associations with Homewood AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Homewood health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Homewood AL residence. Individuals who have decided 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 importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide 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 normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Homewood AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Homewood Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the best physical therapist school is an important first decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Homewood Alabama.