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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist School Near Fort Payne Alabama

Fort Payne Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Fort Payne AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to make certain they will supply a quality 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 residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Fort Payne Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Fort Payne AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Fort Payne AL medical 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 thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Fort Payne Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Fort Payne AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Fort Payne Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program 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 a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable 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 benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Fort Payne AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Fort Payne AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Fort Payne AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Fort Payne AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Fort Payne medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Fort Payne AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fort Payne AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Fort Payne Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Best Fort Payne Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fort Payne Alabama.


 

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