How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Tuscumbia Alabama
Earning a physical therapy degree near Tuscumbia AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated 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 receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are looking at to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to 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 the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Tuscumbia AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Tuscumbia AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather 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 Therapist Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Tuscumbia AL area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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 three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more 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 necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Tuscumbia AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
At this point you probably have come to decision concerning a few of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Tuscumbia AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Find out if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 enroll in an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring 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 important that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Tuscumbia AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Tuscumbia AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Tuscumbia AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Tuscumbia health care community and help with job placement after licensing.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. 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 as well.
Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Tuscumbia AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally 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 bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what kind of help is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Tuscumbia AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Tuscumbia Physical Therapy School
Picking the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Tuscumbia Alabama.