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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Cullman Alabama

Cullman Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Cullman AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Cullman Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Cullman AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, 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 practice in close affiliation with other Cullman AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Cullman Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Cullman AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and often 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 also must 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing 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 instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Cullman Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Cullman AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Cullman AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact a few Cullman AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Cullman AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have partnerships with Cullman AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Cullman medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Cullman AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Cullman AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Cullman Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Right Cullman Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Cullman Alabama.


 

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