How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Montgomery Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Montgomery AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Montgomery AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, 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 resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Montgomery AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several 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 field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Montgomery AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Degrees
While not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Montgomery AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Montgomery AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you need to be sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, 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 college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Montgomery AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact 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 couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Montgomery AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study 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 program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have relationships with Montgomery AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Montgomery healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching 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 talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Montgomery 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 concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Montgomery AL area, check that they are available. 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, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Montgomery Physical Therapy School
Picking the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to 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 reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Montgomery Alabama.