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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Florence AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Florence Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Florence AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Florence AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Florence Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Florence AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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 offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Florence Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Florence AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus options, and expenditures 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 ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Florence AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you pick the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier 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 college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning 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. Get in touch with a few Florence AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Florence AL area? If a program 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 obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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 therapy program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Florence AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to obtain 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 form professional relationships in the Florence medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Florence AL home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need 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 live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Florence AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have 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.

Learn More About Florence Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Right Florence Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve 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 choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Florence Alabama.


 

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