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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Fairfield Alabama

Fairfield Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Fairfield AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Fairfield Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Fairfield 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 previously stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating 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
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Fairfield AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather 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

Fairfield Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare 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 integral initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

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 available in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Fairfield Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so 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 college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairfield 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 options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want 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 Fairfield AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you want to make sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with 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 Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact 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 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 schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fairfield AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program 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 practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have associations with Fairfield AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Fairfield healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Fairfield AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area 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 may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy school you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairfield AL area, make certain 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 need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Fairfield Online Physical Therapist Training

Choose the Right Fairfield Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy program is an important initial decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize 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 ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairfield Alabama.


 

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