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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Clanton Alabama

Clanton Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Clanton AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Clanton Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Clanton 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 earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Clanton AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several 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 getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Clanton Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available 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 available to prospective students in the Clanton AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Clanton Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Clanton AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Clanton AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you choose the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 select an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Clanton AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Clanton AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Clanton AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Clanton healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Clanton AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend online classes 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 consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what kind of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Clanton AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Clanton Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Best Clanton Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me achieve 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 options so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Clanton Alabama.


 

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