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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Anniston Alabama

Anniston Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Anniston AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to ensure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply 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 evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Anniston Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including 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 individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Anniston AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Anniston Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Anniston 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 obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 3 years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

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 having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Anniston Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Anniston AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Anniston AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 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 choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call a few Anniston AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact 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 Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Anniston AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Anniston AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Anniston health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Anniston AL home. Those who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear 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 need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally 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 assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program 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 therapist program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Anniston AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Anniston Physical Therapy Majors

Enroll in the Right Anniston Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is an important first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak 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 adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Anniston Alabama.


 

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