How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Tuscaloosa AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are considering to ensure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered besides 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 what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Tuscaloosa AL private practices, hospitals, 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 previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Tuscaloosa AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Tuscaloosa AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Schools
While not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tuscaloosa AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Tuscaloosa AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Find out if the programs you are considering 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 school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Tuscaloosa AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school options. It might 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate 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 hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Tuscaloosa AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Tuscaloosa AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Tuscaloosa medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Tuscaloosa AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify 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 aid might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option 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 because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Physical Therapist School
Selecting the best physical therapist college is an important initial decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You might decide to go to different schools to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.