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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Dixiana Alabama

Dixiana Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Dixiana AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Dixiana Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Dixiana 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Dixiana AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Dixiana Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Dixiana AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a practicing licensed 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 finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Dixiana Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure 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 in proximity of an available internship. However, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Dixiana AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Dixiana AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required 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 therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Dixiana AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school options. 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 Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Dixiana AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have associations with Dixiana AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Dixiana health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist 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 final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within driving distance of their Dixiana AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to 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 prospective students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Dixiana AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Dixiana Physical Therapy Training

Choose the Best Dixiana Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Dixiana Alabama.


 

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