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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy College Near Guntersville Alabama

Guntersville Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Guntersville AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, 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 thinking about to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Guntersville Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Guntersville AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though 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
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Guntersville AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Guntersville Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Guntersville 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and usually incorporate 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 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Guntersville Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Guntersville AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing 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 most likely have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Guntersville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Guntersville AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Guntersville AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have associations with Guntersville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way 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 assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Guntersville healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Guntersville AL home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program 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 to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Guntersville AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Guntersville Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Choose the Right Guntersville Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk to active 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 adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Guntersville Alabama.


 

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