How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Phenix City Alabama
Getting a physical therapy degree near Phenix City AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to 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 cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Phenix City AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Phenix City AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Phenix City AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as 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 degrees are usually provided by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
Although not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Phenix City AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer 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 Phenix City AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you pick the college that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Phenix City AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program selections. It may 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 couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Phenix City AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have partnerships with Phenix City AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Phenix City medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak 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 many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Phenix City AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep 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 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 to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Phenix City AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative 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 because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Phenix City Physical Therapist School
Picking the best physical therapy college is an important first decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You might want to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach 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 appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Phenix City Alabama.