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

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Gulf Shores AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are considering to ensure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school just 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 along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Gulf Shores Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Gulf Shores 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 touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Gulf Shores AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Gulf Shores Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing 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 practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • 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 eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Gulf Shores Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program 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 similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Gulf Shores AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges 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 can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Gulf Shores AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out because of 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's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select provides both excellent 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Gulf Shores AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Gulf Shores healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Gulf Shores AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy college you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Gulf Shores AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Gulf Shores Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Gulf Shores Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapy college is an important first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college 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 right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gulf Shores Alabama.


 

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