How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Huntsville Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Huntsville AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper education and training. 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 enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with cost and location. 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 is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Huntsville AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Huntsville AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Huntsville AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate 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 degrees are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several 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 holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Programs Online
Although not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Huntsville AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you probably have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Huntsville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you need to be sure that you select the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional 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 select an online college, it can 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 just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Huntsville AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, 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 Huntsville AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have associations with Huntsville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Huntsville health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Huntsville AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what kind of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, make sure that they are offered. 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 procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Huntsville Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk with current 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 additional 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 fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Huntsville Alabama.