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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Fairhope AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make certain they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Fairhope AL private practices, hospitals, 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 mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

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

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Fairhope AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Fairhope Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fairhope AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Fairhope AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you enroll in the school 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 thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned 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 program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting 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 several Fairhope AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college selections. 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 submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support 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 medical care community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with Fairhope AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Fairhope health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Fairhope AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fairhope AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Fairhope Online Physical Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Best Fairhope Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different schools to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairhope Alabama.


 

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