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

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Gulf Shores AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Gulf Shores AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Gulf Shores AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Gulf Shores Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Gulf Shores AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and often 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 3 years to finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

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 attainable in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Gulf Shores Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gulf Shores AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can 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

At this point you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Gulf Shores AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you want to make certain that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 enroll in an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning 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 some Gulf Shores AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It might also be prudent to check with 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 need to find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gulf Shores AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have associations with Gulf Shores AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Gulf Shores healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Gulf Shores AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are examining have a financial aid office and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program 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 therapy school you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gulf Shores AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Gulf Shores Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Best Gulf Shores Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist program is a necessary initial 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 school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may want to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Gulf Shores Alabama.


 

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