How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Sheffield Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Sheffield AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Sheffield AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Sheffield AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are three physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Sheffield AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and commonly 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 overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Schools
Although not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sheffield AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Sheffield AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you select the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.
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 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 college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Sheffield 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 program selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Sheffield AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Sheffield AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Sheffield medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Sheffield AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area 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 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 for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sheffield AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Sheffield Physical Therapy School
Choosing the right physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing 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 fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Sheffield Alabama.