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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Bay Minette Alabama

Bay Minette Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Bay Minette AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients 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 must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with 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 the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Bay Minette Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Bay Minette AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Bay Minette AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Bay Minette Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist 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 becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Bay Minette Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Bay Minette AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Bay Minette AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Bay Minette AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Bay Minette AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have associations with Bay Minette AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Bay Minette health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Bay Minette AL home. Those who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Bay Minette AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Bay Minette Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Bay Minette Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist program is an important first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different schools to see 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 practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Bay Minette Alabama.


 

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