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

Auburn Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Auburn AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary 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 school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to ensure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Auburn Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Auburn AL private practices, hospitals, 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 touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Auburn AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Auburn Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Auburn AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 offered 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 present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Auburn Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Auburn AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools 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.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer 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 have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you pick the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program 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. In addition to ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting 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 as well. Contact a few Auburn AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your school selections. It may 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 Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Auburn 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 excellent. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist 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 as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have partnerships with Auburn AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Auburn healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing 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 a chance to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Auburn AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble 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 perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of 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 might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Auburn AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Auburn Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Right Auburn Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Auburn Alabama.


 

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