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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Alabaster AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Alabaster Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Alabaster AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Alabaster AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep 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 Degree Options

Alabaster Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Alabaster AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress 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 becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable 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 requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Alabaster Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Alabaster AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Alabaster AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Alabaster AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program options. It might 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, 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 college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have relationships with Alabaster AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Alabaster health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at 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 final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Alabaster AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Alabaster AL area, confirm 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 enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Alabaster Online Physical Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Best Alabaster Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other 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 many variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Alabaster Alabama.


 

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