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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Gadsden Alabama

Gadsden Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Gadsden AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Gadsden Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Gadsden AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve 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 abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Gadsden AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee 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 field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Gadsden Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target 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 Gadsden 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. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy 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 important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Gadsden Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gadsden AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want 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 across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you select the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have received 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 enroll in an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required 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 important that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Gadsden AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 Gadsden AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Gadsden AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Gadsden healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. 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 converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Gadsden AL home. Those who have opted 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 concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of help is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Gadsden AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Gadsden Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Gadsden Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gadsden Alabama.


 

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