How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Prattville Alabama
Earning a physical therapist degree near Prattville AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Prattville AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have 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 often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Prattville AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Prattville AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding 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 Therapy Colleges Online
Although not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Prattville AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, 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 throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Ask if the programs you are considering 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 choose an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring 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 School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Prattville AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Prattville AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have associations with Prattville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Prattville health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the average teacher to student 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 several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Prattville AL home. Students who have decided 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. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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 Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending 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, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Prattville Physical Therapy School
Selecting the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish 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 best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Prattville Alabama.