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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Athens Alabama

Athens Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Athens AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become 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 evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose 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 evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Athens Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Athens AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement 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
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Athens AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Athens Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having 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 Therapist Online Degrees

Athens Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, 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 close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, 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 to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Athens AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you need to be sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. 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 search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Athens AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Athens AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select provides both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Athens AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Athens medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Athens AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what kind of aid is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Athens AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option 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 might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Athens Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Athens Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Athens Alabama.


 

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