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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist College Near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Calera AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are thinking about to ensure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Calera Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Calera AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Calera AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Calera Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as 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. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Calera AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 attainable in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Calera Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, 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 necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Calera AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you probably have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, 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 need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 enroll in an online college, it can also receive 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. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting 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 also. Call some Calera AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact 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 Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction 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 Calera 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 even exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have relationships with Calera AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Calera healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Calera AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Calera AL area, make certain that they are available. 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, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Calera Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Calera Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the medical 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 additional critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college 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 choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Calera Alabama.


 

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