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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Chickasaw Alabama

Chickasaw Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Chickasaw AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides 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?

Chickasaw Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Chickasaw AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Chickasaw AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Chickasaw Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Chickasaw AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed 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 three years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 attainable in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Chickasaw Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Chickasaw AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, 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 Chickasaw AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you need to make sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Chickasaw AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges 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 hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Chickasaw AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Chickasaw AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Chickasaw healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering 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 determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Chickasaw AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school 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 normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Chickasaw AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Chickasaw Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Chickasaw Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing 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 best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Chickasaw Alabama.


 

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