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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist College Near Dothan Alabama

Dothan Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Dothan AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about 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?

Dothan Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Dothan AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Dothan AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Dothan Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Dothan AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

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 United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Dothan Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Dothan AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Dothan AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you need to be sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Dothan AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Dothan AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ 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 additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Dothan AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Dothan healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Dothan AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy school you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Dothan AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Dothan Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Best Dothan Physical Therapy School

Selecting the best physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to visit different schools to see 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 have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Dothan Alabama.


 

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