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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy School Near Anniston Alabama

Anniston Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Anniston AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Anniston Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Anniston 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 touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Anniston AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Anniston Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Anniston Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Anniston AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy 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 so many PT schools within the Anniston AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 choose an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even 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 choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call some Anniston AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction 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 school's job placement program, particularly in the Anniston AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that supports 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. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Anniston AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Anniston healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Anniston AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes 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 bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even 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 generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Anniston AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Anniston Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Choose the Right Anniston Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Anniston Alabama.


 

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