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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy School Near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Alabaster AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about 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?

Alabaster Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Alabaster AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Alabaster AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, 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 Therapy Degrees Offered

Alabaster Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Alabaster AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some 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 phased out and is no longer available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Alabaster Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Alabaster AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less 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 advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Alabaster AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have received 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Alabaster AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your college options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Alabaster AL area? If a college 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 program has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college 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 every 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 number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Alabaster AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner 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 assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Alabaster healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor 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 therapy program also.

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

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Alabaster AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Alabaster Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Right Alabaster Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Alabaster Alabama.


 

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