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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Hamilton Alabama

Hamilton Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Hamilton AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Hamilton Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Hamilton 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 previously stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Hamilton AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in 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 quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Hamilton Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable 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 short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Hamilton AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Hamilton Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hamilton AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Hamilton AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Also, you need to make sure that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required 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 choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Hamilton AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It might 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 couple of useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Hamilton AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have relationships with Hamilton AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Hamilton medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Hamilton AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble 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 choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Hamilton AL area, confirm that they are offered. 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, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Hamilton Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Best Hamilton Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hamilton Alabama.


 

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