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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Fort Payne Alabama

Fort Payne Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Fort Payne AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable 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 cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Fort Payne Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Fort Payne AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fort Payne AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering going 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 prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Fort Payne Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Fort Payne AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only 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 offered in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Fort Payne Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, 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 necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fort Payne AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Fort Payne AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering 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 program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check 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 mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Fort Payne AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program selections. 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 Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Fort Payne AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have relationships with Fort Payne AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Fort Payne medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they select will have to be within driving distance of their Fort Payne AL residence. Students who have chosen 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 concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fort Payne AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Fort Payne Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Best Fort Payne Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy program is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve 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 options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Fort Payne Alabama.


 

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