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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Bay Minette Alabama

Bay Minette Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Bay Minette AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to make certain they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Bay Minette Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Bay Minette AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Bay Minette AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Bay Minette Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Bay Minette AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available 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 existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Bay Minette Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated 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 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 significantly less than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Bay Minette AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 choose an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Bay Minette AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school selections. 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 School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Bay Minette AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have relationships with Bay Minette AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Bay Minette medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Bay Minette AL residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

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

Find Out More About Bay Minette Online Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Best Bay Minette Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Bay Minette Alabama.


 

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