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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy School Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Decatur AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to make certain they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Decatur Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Decatur AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Decatur AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, 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

Decatur Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable 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 short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Decatur AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. 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 Therapist Online Schools

Decatur Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Decatur AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Decatur AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing 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 college, it can 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. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Decatur AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. 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 colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Decatur AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both superior 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have relationships with Decatur AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Decatur health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate 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 as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Decatur AL residence. Those who have opted 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 importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Decatur AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Decatur Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Decatur Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical 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 other relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that many variables will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Decatur Alabama.


 

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