How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Prattville Alabama
Earning a physical therapist degree near Prattville AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally 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 essential to investigate those you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we talk about 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?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Prattville AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Prattville AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Prattville AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement 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 typically require 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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 total commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor 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 replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Programs
While not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Prattville AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal 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 concerning a few of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Prattville AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to be sure that you choose the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Find out 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 select 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. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist 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 rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Prattville AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Prattville AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have associations with Prattville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Prattville medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Prattville AL residence. Students who have chosen 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 importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Prattville AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Prattville Physical Therapy School
Selecting the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your final decision. You might decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school 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 right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Prattville Alabama.