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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Gardendale AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss 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?

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Gardendale 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 stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Gardendale AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Offered

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Gardendale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be 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 GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several 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. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Gardendale Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gardendale AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Gardendale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Gardendale AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school selections. It may also be prudent to contact 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 couple of important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gardendale AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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 therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have associations with Gardendale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Gardendale healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Gardendale AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry 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 decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

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

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

Learn More About Gardendale Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Best Gardendale Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and talk 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 additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Gardendale Alabama.


 

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