How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Huntsville Alabama
Earning a physical therapist degree near Huntsville AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, 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 essential to research the ones you are considering to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select 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 must be considered besides 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Huntsville AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals 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 address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Huntsville AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering 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 Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable 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 advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Huntsville AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education 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. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing also.
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 attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Degrees
Although not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Huntsville AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable 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 benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
By now you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Huntsville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 choose an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Huntsville AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Huntsville AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Huntsville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Huntsville medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing 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 an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Huntsville AL home. Those who have decided 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 concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have 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 Assistance Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Huntsville 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 enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Huntsville Physical Therapist School
Choosing the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Huntsville Alabama.