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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist School Near Fairfield Alabama

Fairfield Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Fairfield AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Fairfield Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Fairfield AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues 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
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Fairfield AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Fairfield Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Fairfield AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Fairfield Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairfield AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Fairfield AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 choose an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting 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 also. Get in touch with some Fairfield AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fairfield 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 outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose 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, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have relationships with Fairfield AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Fairfield medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse 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 number of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within driving distance of their Fairfield AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairfield AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Fairfield Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Fairfield Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different colleges to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairfield Alabama.


 

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