How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy College Near Tarrant Alabama
Getting a physical therapist degree near Tarrant AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Tarrant AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Tarrant AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees Available
There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Tarrant 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 a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and usually incorporate 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 3 years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Degrees
Although not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Tarrant AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable 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 benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Tarrant AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few Tarrant AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Tarrant AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have associations with Tarrant AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Tarrant medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Tarrant AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have 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 Support Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Tarrant AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Tarrant Physical Therapist School
Selecting the best physical therapist school is an important initial decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to 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 proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Tarrant Alabama.