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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Clanton Alabama

Clanton Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Clanton AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply 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 considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Clanton Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Clanton AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Clanton AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Clanton Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue 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 target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Clanton AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified 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 complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, 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 available 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 requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Clanton Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to 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 college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Clanton AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Clanton AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Clanton AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be a good idea 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 significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Clanton AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

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

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Clanton AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Clanton health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort 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. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical 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 an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Clanton AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Clanton AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Clanton Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Clanton Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Clanton Alabama.


 

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