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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy School Near Center Point Alabama

Center Point Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Center Point AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to ensure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. 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 relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Center Point Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Center Point AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Center Point AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, 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 Therapist Degrees

Center Point Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Center Point AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Center Point Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more 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 requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Center Point AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like 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 Center Point AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you need to make certain that you pick the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools 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 program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Center Point AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left due to 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 college's job placement program, particularly in the Center Point AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies 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 therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have associations with Center Point AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Center Point healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some 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 therapist college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Center Point AL home. Students who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Center Point AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Center Point Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Right Center Point Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options 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 Center Point Alabama.


 

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