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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Florence AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Florence Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Florence 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 individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Florence AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Florence Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Florence AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and often incorporate 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 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Florence Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure 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 nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Florence AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you would like 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 colleges within the Florence AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to make sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call several Florence AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations 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 filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, 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 Florence AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have relationships with Florence AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get 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 obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher 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 converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Florence AL residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you choose 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 usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Florence AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Florence Online Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Right Florence Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing 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 necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Florence Alabama.


 

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