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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Athens AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are considering to make sure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Athens Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Athens AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. 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 people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Athens AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Athens Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Athens AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement 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 require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Athens Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Athens AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Athens AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 enroll in an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call several Athens AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Athens 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 outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have associations with Athens AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Athens health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Athens AL residence. Those who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Athens AL area, make sure 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 enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Athens Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Right Athens Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing 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 appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Athens Alabama.


 

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