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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Forestdale Alabama

Forestdale Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Forestdale AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury 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 also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are looking at to make sure they will deliver a quality 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 residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to 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?

Forestdale Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Forestdale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression 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
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Forestdale AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Forestdale Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Forestdale 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. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Forestdale Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Forestdale AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Forestdale AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Forestdale AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Forestdale AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support 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 each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Forestdale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Forestdale medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Forestdale AL home. Students who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Forestdale AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. 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.

Find Out More About Forestdale Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Best Forestdale Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Forestdale Alabama.


 

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