How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Montgomery Alabama
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Montgomery AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Montgomery AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Montgomery AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Montgomery AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 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 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
While not as common as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure 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 nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Montgomery AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages 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 Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Montgomery AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Montgomery AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Montgomery AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Montgomery AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Montgomery health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Montgomery AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist program you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Montgomery AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Montgomery Physical Therapy School
Selecting the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Montgomery Alabama.