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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Fultondale Alabama

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Fultondale AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are considering to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered along with 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?

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Fultondale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fultondale AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Fultondale Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Fultondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

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 available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Fultondale Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fultondale AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Fultondale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you choose the program that is right 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 schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call several Fultondale AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left due to 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 school's job placement program, particularly in the Fultondale AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies 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 program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Fultondale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Fultondale healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Fultondale AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fultondale AL area, make sure that they are offered. 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 need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Fultondale Online Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Best Fultondale Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak to 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 following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fultondale Alabama.


 

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