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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Fairhope Alabama

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Fairhope AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate 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 school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. 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?

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Fairhope AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fairhope AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, 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 bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Fairhope Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable 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 progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Fairhope AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as 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 made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to progress 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 take 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Fairhope Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fairhope AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Fairhope AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you need to make certain that you select the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, 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 college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school'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. Call some Fairhope AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school selections. It might 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 School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Fairhope AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program 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 every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have associations with Fairhope AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Fairhope medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching 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 ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Fairhope AL residence. 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 local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairhope AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Fairhope Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Fairhope Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapist college is an important first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairhope Alabama.


 

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