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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Alabaster AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Alabaster Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Alabaster AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing 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 reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try 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
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Alabaster AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with 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 Therapist Degrees Offered

Alabaster Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Alabaster AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prep 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 essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Alabaster Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some 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 college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Alabaster AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Alabaster AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, 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 college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research 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. Contact several Alabaster AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Alabaster AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help 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 satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have associations with Alabaster AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Alabaster healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Alabaster AL home. Students who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Alabaster AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Alabaster Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Alabaster Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that many variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Alabaster Alabama.


 

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