How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Jacksonville Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Jacksonville AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. 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 obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with 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 Jacksonville AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Jacksonville AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Jacksonville AL area:
- Associate Degrees train 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and commonly include 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Degrees
While not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated 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 curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Jacksonville AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Jacksonville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning 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 also. Call some Jacksonville AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school 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 filed against the colleges.
What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Jacksonville AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Jacksonville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Jacksonville health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Jacksonville AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry 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 choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Jacksonville AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Jacksonville Physical Therapy School
Choosing the right physical therapy program is an important first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Jacksonville Alabama.