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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Fultondale Alabama

Fultondale Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Fultondale AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school 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 considered besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Fultondale Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Fultondale AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Fultondale AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Fultondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some licensed 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 implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Fultondale Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Fultondale AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Fultondale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously stated, 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 school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College'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 a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few Fultondale AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired 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's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have associations with Fultondale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Fultondale medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing 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 talk with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Fultondale AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern 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 decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Fultondale AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Fultondale Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Right Fultondale Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapy program is an important first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant 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 factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed 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 best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Fultondale Alabama.


 

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