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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Center Point Alabama

Center Point Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Center Point AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered along with cost and location. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Center Point Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Center Point AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Center Point AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Center Point Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Center Point AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Center Point Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Center Point AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Center Point AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Also, you want to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously 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 program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Center Point AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Center Point AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have partnerships with Center Point AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Center Point medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer 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 want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Center Point AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to bear 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 may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist program you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Center Point AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Center Point Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Best Center Point Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk with current 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 supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Center Point Alabama.


 

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