How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Huntsville Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Huntsville AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Huntsville AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Huntsville AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Available
There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Huntsville AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and commonly include 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 also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Colleges
Although not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Huntsville AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Huntsville AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 enroll in an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Huntsville AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your college options. It might 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 colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Huntsville AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Huntsville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Huntsville healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Huntsville AL residence. Students who have opted 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 concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Huntsville Physical Therapy School
Picking the right physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Huntsville Alabama.