How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Montgomery Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Montgomery AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate 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 selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides 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 practice in a variety of settings, such as Montgomery AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Montgomery AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is offered 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Montgomery AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate 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 qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While 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 take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just 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 available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Colleges
While not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Montgomery AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Montgomery AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you pick the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Ask if the programs you are considering have earned 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 enroll in an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have excellent 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 place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Montgomery AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school selections. It might also be a good idea 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 Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Montgomery AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Montgomery AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Montgomery medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher 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 speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Montgomery AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose 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 generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Montgomery AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Montgomery Physical Therapy School
Deciding on the best physical therapist school is an important first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school 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 choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Montgomery Alabama.