How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Orange Beach Alabama
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Orange Beach AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Orange Beach AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Orange Beach AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, 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 Therapist Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is attainable 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. Below are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Orange Beach AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Colleges Online
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 combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Orange Beach AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses 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 right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Orange Beach AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 select an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT program'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 also. Contact some Orange Beach AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Orange Beach AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Orange Beach AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Orange Beach healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Orange Beach AL home. Individuals who have chosen 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 keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally select 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 Orange Beach AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Orange Beach Physical Therapy School
Picking the best physical therapy program is an important first decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Orange Beach Alabama.