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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Clay Alabama

Clay Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Clay AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make certain they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Clay Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Clay AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee 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 thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Clay Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Clay AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want 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 complete, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some 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 offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Clay Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can 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 lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Clay AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Clay AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program 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 Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage 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 college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 program. While licensing requirements vary 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 additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have associations with Clay AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Clay healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching 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 ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Clay AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose 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 often 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 Provided? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college 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 confirm that the physical therapy program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening 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 enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Clay Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Clay Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapist school is an important initial decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may want to go to each of the colleges to see 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 following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Clay Alabama.


 

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