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

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Gardendale AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to make certain they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss 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?

Gardendale Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Gardendale AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Gardendale AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Gardendale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered 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. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 three years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, 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 USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Gardendale Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature 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 part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gardendale AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Gardendale AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to make sure that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Gardendale AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program selections. It may 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Gardendale AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Gardendale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Gardendale medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Gardendale AL residence. Students who have opted to attend classes online 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 consider is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Gardendale AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Gardendale Online Physical Therapy Training

Enroll in the Right Gardendale Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gardendale Alabama.


 

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