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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Auburn Alabama

Auburn Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Auburn AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about 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 physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Auburn AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try 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
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Auburn AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Therapist Degrees Offered

Auburn Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as 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. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Auburn AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate 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 made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Auburn Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Auburn AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Auburn AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you want to make sure that you choose 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 schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 enroll in an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Auburn AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be prudent 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 School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Auburn AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have associations with Auburn AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Auburn healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at 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 talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program 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. Students who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Auburn AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Auburn Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Best Auburn Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many factors will guide you to your final decision. You might decide to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Auburn Alabama.


 

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