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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Enterprise Alabama

Enterprise Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Enterprise AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Enterprise Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Enterprise AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Enterprise AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Enterprise Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Enterprise AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a licensed practicing 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 complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the USA. Some licensed 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 Colleges Online

Enterprise Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Enterprise AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Enterprise AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Also, you need to make certain that you select the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at 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 program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Enterprise AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program selections. It may also be prudent 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 Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Enterprise AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have relationships with Enterprise AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Enterprise healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives 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 Enterprise AL residence. Those who have opted to attend classes online 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 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and find out what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Enterprise AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Enterprise Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Enterprise Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Enterprise Alabama.


 

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