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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Guntersville Alabama

Guntersville Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Guntersville AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college just 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 besides 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Guntersville Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Guntersville AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent 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
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Guntersville AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Guntersville Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 attainable in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Guntersville Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Guntersville AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Guntersville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you select the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to 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 School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting 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 also. Contact several Guntersville AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Guntersville AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have relationships with Guntersville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, 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 Guntersville healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student 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 an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Guntersville AL residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist 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 finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Guntersville AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Guntersville Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Best Guntersville Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical 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 be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Guntersville Alabama.


 

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