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

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Gulf Shores AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Gulf Shores AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Gulf Shores AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, 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 therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Gulf Shores AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Gulf Shores Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to 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 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 Gulf Shores AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Gulf Shores AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to be sure that you pick the college that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional 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 choose an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Gulf Shores AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Gulf Shores AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Gulf Shores AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Gulf Shores health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Gulf Shores AL residence. Those who have opted to attend classes online obviously 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 choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Gulf Shores AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Gulf Shores Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Right Gulf Shores Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important 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 a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize 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 field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Gulf Shores Alabama.


 

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