How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Huntsville Alabama
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Huntsville AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant 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 cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Huntsville AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Huntsville AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Huntsville AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Programs Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Huntsville AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, 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 alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Huntsville AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you pick the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 select an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple 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 reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Huntsville AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your college selections. 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Huntsville AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have associations with Huntsville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Huntsville healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Huntsville AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep 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 may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Huntsville AL area, make certain that they are available. 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 need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Huntsville Physical Therapy School
Picking the best physical therapy college is an important initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college 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 choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Huntsville Alabama.