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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Cullman Alabama

Cullman Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Cullman AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled 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 proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to location and cost. 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Cullman Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Cullman AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. 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 experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Cullman AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several 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 profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Cullman Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Cullman AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can 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 made available by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Cullman Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Cullman AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you most likely have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money 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 other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Cullman AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important 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 indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Cullman AL area? If a school 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 gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Cullman AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great 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 graduates and students form professional connections in the Cullman medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Cullman AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear 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 may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating 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 must verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending 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 alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Cullman Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Right Cullman Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy program is an important first decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Cullman Alabama.


 

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