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

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Fultondale AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are considering to make certain they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Fultondale 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 individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fultondale AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Fultondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Fultondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become 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 equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Fultondale Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, 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 near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fultondale AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Fultondale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make certain that you select the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized 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 assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Fultondale AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program 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 filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 Fultondale AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Fultondale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Fultondale healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Fultondale AL residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have 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 Assistance Offered? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fultondale AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Fultondale Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Right Fultondale Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Fultondale Alabama.


 

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