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

Clay Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Clay AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Clay Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Clay AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Clay AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Clay Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Clay AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically provided 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 created as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

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 USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Clay Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Clay AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Clay AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 enroll in an online college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent 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 imperative that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Clay AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college options. 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 filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Clay AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every 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, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have partnerships with Clay AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to obtain 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 Clay health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Clay AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Clay AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Clay Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Clay Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to different schools to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college 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 Clay Alabama.


 

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