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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Chickasaw Alabama

Chickasaw Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Chickasaw AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated 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 must acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Chickasaw Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Chickasaw AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Chickasaw AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite 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

Chickasaw Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Chickasaw AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may 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 most often provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing 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 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 available 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 requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Chickasaw Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of 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 integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Chickasaw AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding several of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, 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 throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you choose the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Chickasaw AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program selections. 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 two significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left 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 Chickasaw AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have relationships with Chickasaw AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner 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 help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Chickasaw healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way 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 considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Chickasaw AL residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Chickasaw AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check 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 as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Chickasaw Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Chickasaw Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapist program is an important first decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Chickasaw Alabama.


 

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