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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Foley Alabama

Foley Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Foley AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Foley Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Foley AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Foley AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Foley Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Foley AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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. Some practicing 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 instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Foley Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships 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 program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Foley AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Foley AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 select an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. 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 Foley AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Foley AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have associations with Foley AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Foley healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical 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 a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Foley AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Foley AL area, make certain 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, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Foley Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Foley Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to 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 school you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Foley Alabama.


 

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