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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Fairhope AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Fairhope Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Fairhope AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent 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
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fairhope AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Fairhope Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Fairhope AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Fairhope Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fairhope AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy 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 numerous PT schools within the Fairhope AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to be sure that you pick the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional 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 select an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call several Fairhope AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fairhope AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Fairhope AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Fairhope medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer 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 instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Fairhope AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fairhope AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Fairhope Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Right Fairhope Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the best physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairhope Alabama.


 

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