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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Fairhope AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Fairhope Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Fairhope AL hospitals, health clinics, 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 stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Fairhope AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Fairhope AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

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. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Fairhope Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairhope AL home. Online programs are not only partially 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 reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Fairhope AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously 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 choose an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Fairhope AL physical therapist clinics or other medical 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 a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left due to displeasure 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 Fairhope AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Fairhope AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Fairhope health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Fairhope AL home. Students 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 consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairhope AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Fairhope Online Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Right Fairhope Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak with 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 field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Fairhope Alabama.


 

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