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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Gardendale AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to make sure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover 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 practice in varying locations, such as Gardendale AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression 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
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Gardendale AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Gardendale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Gardendale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students 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 generally take 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Gardendale Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gardendale AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable 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 benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Gardendale AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Gardendale AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gardendale AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both superior training and a course of study 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have associations with Gardendale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Gardendale healthcare community and assist 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 hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Gardendale AL home. Those who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider 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 Support Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gardendale AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Gardendale Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Gardendale Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gardendale Alabama.


 

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