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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Calera AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we discuss 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Calera Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Calera AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Calera AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Calera Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Calera AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train 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 programs are most often offered by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a licensed practicing 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 finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Calera Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to 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 college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Calera AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Calera AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online school, it may also earn 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 just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Calera AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Calera AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Calera AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional connections in the Calera medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Calera AL residence. Individuals 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 concern. One thing to keep 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 may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Calera AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Calera Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Calera Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Calera Alabama.


 

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