How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist School Near Meridianville Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Meridianville AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Meridianville AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Meridianville AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Meridianville AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Degrees Online
While not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Meridianville AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Meridianville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional 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 program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check 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 as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Meridianville AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your school selections. It may 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 School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Meridianville AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Meridianville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Meridianville health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several 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 therapist college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Meridianville AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Meridianville AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Meridianville Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you have to 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 select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You may want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Meridianville Alabama.