How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Jacksonville Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Jacksonville AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with 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 what the educational options are.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Jacksonville AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Jacksonville AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Jacksonville AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, 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 licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Programs Online
Although not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Jacksonville AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapist 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 since there are so many PT colleges within the Jacksonville AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you pick the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are considering 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 choose an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting 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 organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Jacksonville AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you 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 submitted against the colleges.
What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Jacksonville AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have associations with Jacksonville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Jacksonville healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Jacksonville AL home. 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 bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Jacksonville AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Jacksonville Physical Therapist School
Choosing the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Jacksonville Alabama.