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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Gadsden Alabama

Gadsden Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Gadsden AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are considering to make sure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant 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 address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Gadsden Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Gadsden 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 earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Gadsden AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Gadsden Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Gadsden AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some 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 attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Gadsden Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gadsden AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Gadsden AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you want to be sure that you select the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Gadsden AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school options. 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Gadsden AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have relationships with Gadsden AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Gadsden health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Gadsden AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program 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 commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gadsden AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Gadsden Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Best Gadsden Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional 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 achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gadsden Alabama.


 

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