How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy School Near Mountain Brook Alabama
Receiving a physical therapist degree near Mountain Brook AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make sure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Mountain Brook AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Mountain Brook AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Mountain Brook AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing also.
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 practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Programs
Although not as common as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees 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 college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Mountain Brook AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Mountain Brook AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled 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 before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national 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 school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school'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 agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Mountain Brook AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One 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, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Mountain Brook AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose provides both excellent 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary 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 exams.
Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have associations with Mountain Brook AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Mountain Brook healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average teacher to student 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 talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Mountain Brook AL residence. Students who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry 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 decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what kind of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Mountain Brook AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Mountain Brook Physical Therapy School
Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical 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 appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Mountain Brook Alabama.