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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Cullman Alabama

Cullman Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Cullman AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated 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 appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Cullman Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Cullman AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Cullman AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Cullman Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Cullman 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 qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Cullman Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more 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 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 convenience and comfort of the student's Cullman AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding a few 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 spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Cullman AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy 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 agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Cullman AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Cullman AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have associations with Cullman AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Cullman medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some 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 therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Cullman AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Cullman AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Cullman Physical Therapist Colleges

Choose the Best Cullman Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding 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 outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school 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 appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Cullman Alabama.


 

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