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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Gardendale AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Gardendale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Gardendale AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Gardendale 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 typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and often 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 must also 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Gardendale Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gardendale AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much 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 have to explore additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make certain that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 select an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting 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. Call several Gardendale AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gardendale AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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 therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have partnerships with Gardendale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Gardendale healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Gardendale AL home. Those who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Gardendale AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Gardendale Online Physical Therapy Programs

Choose the Best Gardendale Physical Therapy School

Selecting the best physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to visit different campuses to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important 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 right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Gardendale Alabama.


 

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