How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Montevallo Alabama
Earning a physical therapist degree near Montevallo AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a superior education and meet 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 home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Montevallo AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Montevallo AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Montevallo AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and usually incorporate 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 also must 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 the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.
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 available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Degrees
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Montevallo AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs 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 alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
By now you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Montevallo AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call a few Montevallo AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with 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 significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Montevallo AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Montevallo AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Montevallo health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Montevallo AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Montevallo AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Montevallo Physical Therapy School
Deciding on the right physical therapy program is an important initial decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different colleges 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 following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Montevallo Alabama.