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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Calera Alabama

Calera Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Calera AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Calera Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Calera AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Calera AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Calera Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Calera AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 3 years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

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 practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Calera Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Calera AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Calera AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make sure that you pick the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have earned 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college 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 asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Calera AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of displeasure 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 Calera AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both superior 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Calera AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Calera health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Calera AL residence. Students who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you choose 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 usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and find out what kind of aid is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Calera 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 credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask 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 Calera Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Calera Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapy school is an important first decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and talk to 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 adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Calera Alabama.


 

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