How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Muscle Shoals AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Muscle Shoals 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 mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course 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 requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Muscle Shoals AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several 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 Therapy Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is available 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. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Muscle Shoals AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prepare 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 preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and usually 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Colleges
Although not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Muscle Shoals AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, 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 alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
By now you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Muscle Shoals AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you select the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Muscle Shoals AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program options. It may also be prudent to check with 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 Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Muscle Shoals 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 even exceptional. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have associations with Muscle Shoals AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to get hands on experience 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 establish professional connections in the Muscle Shoals medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Muscle Shoals AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Muscle Shoals AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Muscle Shoals Physical Therapist School
Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school 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 best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Muscle Shoals Alabama.