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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Gardendale Alabama

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Gardendale AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled 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 obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to 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 the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Gardendale AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Gardendale AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Gardendale Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Gardendale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Gardendale Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gardendale AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Gardendale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national 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 select an online program, it may also earn 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, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides 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 Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations 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 options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once 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 Gardendale AL area? If a college 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 program has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have associations with Gardendale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Gardendale medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher 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 a few 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 school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Gardendale AL home. Students who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gardendale AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option 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 might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Gardendale Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Gardendale Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Gardendale Alabama.


 

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