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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near East Florence Alabama

East Florence Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near East Florence AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to make certain they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. 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 cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

East Florence Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including East Florence AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other East Florence AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, 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 Offered

East Florence Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the East Florence AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and often 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom 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 United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

East Florence Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's East Florence AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the East Florence AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 enroll in an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few East Florence AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the East Florence AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements vary 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 tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with East Florence AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the East Florence medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. 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 talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their East Florence AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes 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 keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you finally choose can provide 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 East Florence AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About East Florence Online Physical Therapy Majors

Enroll in the Best East Florence Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish 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 best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in East Florence Alabama.


 

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