How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Pelham Alabama
Receiving a physical therapist degree near Pelham AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Pelham AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Pelham AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, 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 offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Pelham AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial 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 a minimum of 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Degrees
While not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many 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 combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pelham AL residence. Online programs 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 a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Pelham AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Pelham AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean 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 assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Pelham AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have associations with Pelham AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Pelham health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Pelham AL residence. Students who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even 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 commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department and see what kind of assistance is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Pelham AL area, confirm that they are offered. 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, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Pelham Physical Therapy School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is an important initial decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to 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 lead you toward your final decision. You may want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Pelham Alabama.