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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Fort Payne Alabama

Fort Payne Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Fort Payne AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. 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 must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Fort Payne Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Fort Payne AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Fort Payne AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Fort Payne Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Fort Payne AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some 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 United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Fort Payne Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fort Payne AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Fort Payne AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select 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 select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated 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 school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Fort Payne AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Fort Payne 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 perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose provides both superior training and a course of study 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 therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have associations with Fort Payne AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Fort Payne health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Fort Payne AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally 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 Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fort Payne AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Fort Payne Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Fort Payne Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapist school is an important first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Fort Payne Alabama.


 

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