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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Clay Alabama

Clay Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Clay AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Clay Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Clay AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Clay AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee 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 going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, 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 three physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Clay AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning 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 important element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some 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. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Clay Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, 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 necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum 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 a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you most likely have made a decision concerning 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 money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Clay AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 select an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Clay AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program options. It may 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 relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Clay AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports 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 therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have associations with Clay AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Clay healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Clay AL residence. Those who have chosen 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 concern. One thing 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they 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 you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Clay AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option 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 illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Clay Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Clay Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Clay Alabama.


 

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