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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Gulf Shores Alabama

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Gulf Shores AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to 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 get the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we talk about 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Gulf Shores AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Gulf Shores AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Gulf Shores Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable 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 brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Gulf Shores AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the extensive 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Gulf Shores Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so 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 near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gulf Shores AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you prefer 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 Gulf Shores AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the program 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 therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 choose an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Gulf Shores AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gulf Shores AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose provides both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Gulf Shores AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional connections in the Gulf Shores health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large 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 likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Gulf Shores AL residence. Students who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear 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 need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gulf Shores AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Gulf Shores Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Best Gulf Shores Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Gulf Shores Alabama.


 

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