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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Alexander City Alabama

Alexander City Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Alexander City AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Alexander City Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Alexander City AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Alexander City AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Alexander City Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Alexander City AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Alexander City Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to 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 school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Alexander City AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Alexander City AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you select the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call a few Alexander City AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program options. It might 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 schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Alexander City 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 verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have partnerships with Alexander City AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Alexander City medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Alexander City AL residence. Students who have decided 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. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Alexander City AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Alexander City Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Right Alexander City Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following 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 achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Alexander City Alabama.


 

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