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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Decatur AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Decatur Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Decatur AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Decatur AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Decatur Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Decatur AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Decatur Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Decatur AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Decatur AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 choose an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Decatur 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 program selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Decatur AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have associations with Decatur AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Decatur healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Decatur 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 importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college 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 usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Decatur AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Decatur Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Right Decatur Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Decatur Alabama.


 

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