How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Tuscaloosa AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled 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 get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are considering to make sure they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Do Physical Therapists Do?
Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Tuscaloosa AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Tuscaloosa AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Tuscaloosa AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Schools
While not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships 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 program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tuscaloosa AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools
By now you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Tuscaloosa AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you select the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received 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 college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Tuscaloosa AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure 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 school's job placement program, particularly in the Tuscaloosa AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.
Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Tuscaloosa AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Tuscaloosa medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing 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 determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Tuscaloosa AL home. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Tuscaloosa Physical Therapist School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy college is an important first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve 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 appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.