How to Find the Right Physical Therapist School Near Smiths Station Alabama
Earning a physical therapist degree near Smiths Station AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will furnish 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 evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Smiths Station 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 earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Smiths Station AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather 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 Therapy Degrees Available
There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Smiths Station AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare 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 equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Schools Online
While not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Smiths Station AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Smiths Station AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call some Smiths Station AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Smiths Station AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have partnerships with Smiths Station AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Smiths Station health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Smiths Station AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern 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 choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Smiths Station AL area, make sure 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 carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Smiths Station Physical Therapist School
Picking the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different campuses 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 additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Smiths Station Alabama.