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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Auburn Alabama

Auburn Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Auburn AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Auburn Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Auburn AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While 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
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

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

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Auburn Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become 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 brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Auburn AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, 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 United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Auburn Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of 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 school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Auburn AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, 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 Auburn AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you select the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, 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 can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Auburn AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Auburn AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have partnerships with Auburn AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Auburn health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average 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 an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Auburn AL home. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps 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 typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

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

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Auburn AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Auburn Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Right Auburn Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might decide to visit different colleges to view their facilities and talk to active 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 field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Auburn Alabama.


 

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