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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Athens AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Athens Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Athens AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent 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
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Athens AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Athens Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Athens AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate 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 GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically 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 normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and commonly 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Athens Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Athens AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, 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 colleges within the Athens AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you need to make sure that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Athens AL physical therapist 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 selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Athens AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have relationships with Athens AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Athens health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit 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 prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Athens AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Athens AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Athens Online Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Right Athens Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapy program is an important first decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Athens Alabama.


 

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