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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Bessemer AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Bessemer Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, such as Bessemer AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Bessemer AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Bessemer Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Bessemer AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can 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 programs are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of 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 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. Some 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 Degrees Online

Bessemer Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Bessemer AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you want 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 colleges within the Bessemer AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 select an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Bessemer AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Bessemer AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Bessemer AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections 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 prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Bessemer AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry 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 decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Bessemer AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Bessemer Online Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Right Bessemer Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy school is an important first decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Bessemer Alabama.


 

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