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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Decatur Alabama

Decatur Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Decatur AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are considering to make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Decatur Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Decatur AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Decatur AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Decatur Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Decatur AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Decatur Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, 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 requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Decatur AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you intend 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 Decatur AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you select the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Decatur AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college options. It might 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One 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 support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Decatur AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Decatur AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Decatur health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Decatur AL home. Those who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Decatur AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have 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 Therapist Schools

Choose the Best Decatur Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college 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 appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Decatur Alabama.


 

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