How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Princeton Alabama
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Princeton AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss 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 practice in diverse settings, including Princeton AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Princeton AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely 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 therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become 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. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Princeton AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Programs Online
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Princeton AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
At this point you probably have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Princeton AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 select an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting 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 exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Princeton AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Princeton AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have relationships with Princeton AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Princeton medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Princeton AL home. Students who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep 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 may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what type of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Princeton AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Princeton Physical Therapist School
Deciding on the right physical therapist college is an important first decision you need 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 pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Princeton Alabama.