How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Robertsdale Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Robertsdale AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled 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 must get the proper training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, 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 varying settings, such as Robertsdale AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Robertsdale AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Robertsdale AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and often 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 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 overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some 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 available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Programs Online
Although not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Robertsdale AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
By now you most likely have made a decision regarding some of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Robertsdale AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you select the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Find out if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Robertsdale AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program options. It may also be a good idea 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 Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Robertsdale AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Robertsdale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Robertsdale health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Robertsdale AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online 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 bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Robertsdale AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Robertsdale Physical Therapist School
Selecting the right physical therapist program is an important initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing 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 selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Robertsdale Alabama.