How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Smiths Station Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Smiths Station AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated 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 appropriate education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with 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 what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Smiths Station AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Smiths Station AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Smiths Station AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some 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. Some practicing 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 instituted.
Physical Therapy Programs Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist 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. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Smiths Station AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
At this point you probably have made a decision concerning several of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Smiths Station AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the college that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing 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 School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Smiths Station AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program selections. It may also be prudent to contact 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 Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Smiths Station AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both superior 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Smiths Station AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional connections in the Smiths Station health care community and help with job placement after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several 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 therapist college they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Smiths Station AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously 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 school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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 Support Offered? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Smiths Station AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Smiths Station Physical Therapy School
Picking the right physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Smiths Station Alabama.