How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Pinson Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Pinson AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Pinson AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Pinson AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Pinson 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 a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some 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 attainable in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Colleges
While not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pinson AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Pinson AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 enroll in an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Pinson AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact 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 Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Pinson AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Pinson AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Pinson healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. 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 as well.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Pinson 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 keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Pinson AL area, check 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 need to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Pinson Physical Therapist School
Picking the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different schools 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 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 ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Pinson Alabama.