How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Rainbow City Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Rainbow City AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss 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's Job Description?
Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Rainbow City 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Rainbow City AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Available
There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Rainbow City AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Online Schools
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, 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 necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Rainbow City AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable 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 advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy 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 schools within the Rainbow City AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 select an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting 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 agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Rainbow City AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your college options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Rainbow City AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements vary 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 Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Rainbow City AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to receive practical experience 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 graduates and students develop professional connections in the Rainbow City healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.
Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Rainbow City AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online naturally 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 bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Rainbow City AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Rainbow City Physical Therapist School
Selecting the best physical therapy school is an important first decision you have to make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Rainbow City Alabama.