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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Florence Alabama

Florence Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Florence AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we cover 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Florence Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, 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 stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Florence AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Florence Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available 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 mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Florence Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature 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 in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Florence AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Florence AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you enroll in 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 therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received 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 choose an online program, it may also obtain 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 simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to 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 asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some 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 advice about your school options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college'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 field is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Florence AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Florence healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

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 undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity 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 college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Florence AL home. Students who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Support Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Florence AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Florence Online Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Right Florence Physical Therapy School

Selecting the best physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk 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 choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Florence Alabama.


 

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