How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy School Near Rainbow City Alabama
Receiving a physical therapist degree near Rainbow City AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Rainbow City AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop 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
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Rainbow City AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into 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 extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Rainbow City AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance 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 the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Programs Online
Although not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so 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 nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Rainbow City AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Rainbow City AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited? Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Rainbow City AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Rainbow City 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 even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose furnishes both excellent 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have associations with Rainbow City AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional connections in the Rainbow City healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Large 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 want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Rainbow City AL residence. Those who have decided 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 concern. 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Rainbow City AL area, make certain that they are available. 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 have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Rainbow City Physical Therapy School
Picking the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Rainbow City Alabama.