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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist School Near Gadsden Alabama

Gadsden Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Gadsden AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Gadsden Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Gadsden 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 stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Gadsden AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about 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 long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Gadsden Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Gadsden AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Gadsden Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gadsden AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, like 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 considering there are so many PT schools within the Gadsden AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check 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 might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Gadsden AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gadsden AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have relationships with Gadsden AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Gadsden medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some 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 school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Gadsden AL home. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gadsden AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Gadsden Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Gadsden Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapist college is an important initial decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school 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 training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Gadsden Alabama.


 

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