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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Program Near East Florence Alabama

East Florence Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near East Florence AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we discuss 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

East Florence Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as East Florence AL private practices, hospitals, 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 previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other East Florence AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

East Florence Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as 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. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the East Florence AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. 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 ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and usually 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 also must 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 overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

East Florence Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more 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 in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's East Florence AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you probably have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the East Florence AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 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, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few East Florence AL physical therapist clinics or other health 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 prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest 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 help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the East Florence AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have partnerships with East Florence AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the East Florence healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their East Florence AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending 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 credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About East Florence Online Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Right East Florence Physical Therapist School

Picking the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in East Florence Alabama.


 

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