How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Robertsdale Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Robertsdale AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Robertsdale AL hospitals, health clinics, 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 mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce 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
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Robertsdale AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Available
There are three physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Robertsdale AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish 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 intregal component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Programs
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Robertsdale AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Robertsdale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned 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 choose an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose 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 guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. 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 check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Robertsdale AL physical therapy 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 school selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out 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 Robertsdale AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements differ 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? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have associations with Robertsdale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Robertsdale healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical 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 an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on 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. Something 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Robertsdale AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Robertsdale Physical Therapy School
Picking the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk to active 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 following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Robertsdale Alabama.