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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Florence AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. 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 considered besides cost and location. 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?

Florence Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Florence AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Florence AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Florence Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Florence AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed 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 complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Florence Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to 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 school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Florence AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Florence AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you want to make certain that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national 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 enroll in an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent 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 refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Florence AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Florence AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have relationships with Florence AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional connections in the Florence medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher 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 an opportunity to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Florence AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Florence AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Florence Online Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Best Florence Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Florence Alabama.


 

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