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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Chelsea Alabama

Chelsea Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Chelsea AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about 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's Job Description?

Chelsea Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Chelsea AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course 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
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Chelsea AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Chelsea Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable 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 advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Chelsea AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become 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 GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some 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. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Chelsea Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Chelsea AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Chelsea AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you pick the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier mentioned, 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 can also obtain 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, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting 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. Get in touch with a few Chelsea AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college selections. It may also be prudent 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate 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 hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Chelsea AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose furnishes both exceptional 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with Chelsea AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Chelsea medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Chelsea AL home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry 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 school that is out of state or perhaps 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 commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Chelsea AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Chelsea Online Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Best Chelsea Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Chelsea Alabama.


 

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