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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Attalla Alabama

Attalla Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Attalla AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Attalla Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Attalla AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Attalla AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Attalla Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one 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 advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Attalla AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and often incorporate 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 also must 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 overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the USA. A number of 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 Online Degrees

Attalla Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more 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 portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Attalla AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Attalla AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you pick the college that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 choose an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for 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. Get in touch with some Attalla AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact 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 two useful statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Attalla AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements 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 therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Attalla AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Attalla healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate 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 also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Attalla AL home. Students who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry 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 program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Attalla AL area, make certain 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, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Attalla Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Right Attalla Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and talk to 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 following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Attalla Alabama.


 

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