How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Mountain Brook Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Mountain Brook AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to 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 what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Mountain Brook AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Mountain Brook AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather 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 Therapy Degrees Available
There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable 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 advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Mountain Brook AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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 commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Schools
Although not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Mountain Brook AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Mountain Brook AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you need to make certain that you enroll in the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 select an online college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several 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 reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call a few Mountain Brook AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Mountain Brook AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Mountain Brook AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Mountain Brook health care community and help with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering 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 an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Mountain Brook AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Mountain Brook AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Mountain Brook Physical Therapy School
Selecting the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Mountain Brook Alabama.