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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Chelsea Alabama

Chelsea Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Chelsea AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. 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 what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Chelsea Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Chelsea AL hospitals, health clinics, 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 previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Chelsea AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Chelsea Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered 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 progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Chelsea AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 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 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 overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Chelsea Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated 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 may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Chelsea AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few 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 money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Chelsea AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier 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 select an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT program'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 as well. Contact some Chelsea AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college options. 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 colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Chelsea AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Chelsea AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Chelsea medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Chelsea AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online 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 choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapist 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 assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Chelsea AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Chelsea Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Chelsea Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk with active 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 supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Chelsea Alabama.


 

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