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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Andalusia Alabama

Andalusia Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Andalusia AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Andalusia Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Andalusia AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating 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 Andalusia AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going 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 prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Andalusia Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training 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 Andalusia AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually include 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 also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Andalusia Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Andalusia AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs 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 option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy 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 Andalusia AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to make sure that you select the college that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national 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 choose an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school'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 several Andalusia AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you 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 submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Andalusia AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary 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 Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have associations with Andalusia AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Andalusia medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical 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 determination. 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 School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Andalusia AL home. Those who have chosen 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 importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Andalusia AL area, check that they are offered. 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 carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Andalusia Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Andalusia Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk with 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 have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Andalusia Alabama.


 

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