How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Prattville Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Prattville AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Prattville AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Prattville AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind 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
There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Prattville AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 offered in the USA. 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 Degrees
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Prattville AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Prattville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you need to be sure that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier stated, 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 school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with 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 College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Prattville AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program selections. It may also be prudent 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Prattville AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports 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 therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Prattville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Prattville health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Prattville 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 area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy college you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Prattville AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Prattville Physical Therapist School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is an important initial decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Prattville Alabama.