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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist School Near Cullman Alabama

Cullman Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Cullman AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss 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?

Cullman Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Cullman AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Cullman AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Cullman Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Cullman AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed 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 important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally 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 also must 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 total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding 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

Cullman Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Cullman AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Cullman AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing 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 choose an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Cullman AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school selections. It might also be prudent 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 College'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 reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Cullman AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you select furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Cullman AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Cullman healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Cullman AL residence. Students who have opted 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 bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Cullman AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative 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 work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Cullman Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Right Cullman Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy college is an important initial decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Cullman Alabama.


 

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