How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist School Near Oxford Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Oxford AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, 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 certain they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss 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 diverse settings, such as Oxford AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Oxford AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, 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. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Oxford 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 earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, 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 available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Schools
Although not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more 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 requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Oxford AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you most likely have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Oxford AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Ask if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Oxford AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Oxford AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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 school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have partnerships with Oxford AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Oxford medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Oxford AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Oxford AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Oxford Physical Therapist School
Picking the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Oxford Alabama.