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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Decatur AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Decatur Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Decatur AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Decatur AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Decatur Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Decatur AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 3 years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing 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 Degrees Online

Decatur Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure 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 a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Decatur AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Decatur AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make certain that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting 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 also. Get in touch with a few Decatur AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Decatur 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 outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Decatur AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way 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 help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Decatur medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Decatur AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something 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 may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Decatur AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Decatur Online Physical Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Best Decatur Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapist school is an important initial decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different schools to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me realize 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 best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Decatur Alabama.


 

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