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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Dothan Alabama

Dothan Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Dothan AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Dothan Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Dothan AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Dothan AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into 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 Therapy Degrees Offered

Dothan Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three 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 concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Dothan AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion 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 USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Dothan Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more 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 near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Dothan AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Dothan AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you choose the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 select an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting 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 exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Dothan AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. 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 filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Dothan AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ 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 Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Dothan AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Dothan medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Dothan AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college 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 usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Dothan AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Dothan Online Physical Therapy Training

Enroll in the Best Dothan Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapy program is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize 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 right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Dothan Alabama.


 

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