How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Montgomery Alabama
Earning a physical therapy degree near Montgomery AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just 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 in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Montgomery AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Montgomery AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Montgomery AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Schools Online
While not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, 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 requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Montgomery AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, 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 Montgomery AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received 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 school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of 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 search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Montgomery AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide 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 colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Montgomery AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements fluctuate 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 Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have relationships with Montgomery AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to get practical experience 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 healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Montgomery AL residence. Individuals who have chosen 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 keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Montgomery 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 have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Montgomery Physical Therapist School
Picking the right physical therapy college is an important initial decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Montgomery Alabama.