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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Bessemer AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. 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 relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Bessemer Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Bessemer AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Bessemer AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of 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 prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Bessemer Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Bessemer AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

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 USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Bessemer Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Bessemer AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Bessemer AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you need to make sure that you enroll in the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering 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 choose an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for 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 several Bessemer AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college options. 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Bessemer AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have associations with Bessemer AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Bessemer health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Bessemer AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you decide 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 generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer 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 therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Bessemer AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Bessemer Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Best Bessemer Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Bessemer Alabama.


 

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