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

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Fultondale AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Fultondale AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have 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 frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Fultondale AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Fultondale Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available 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 practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Fultondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Fultondale Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fultondale AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools 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 college choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out 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 college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Fultondale AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once 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 Fultondale AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Fultondale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Fultondale medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Fultondale AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something 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 may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fultondale AL area, check 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 have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Fultondale Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Best Fultondale Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the best physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Fultondale Alabama.


 

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