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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Hamilton Alabama

Hamilton Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Hamilton AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Hamilton Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Hamilton AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Hamilton AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Hamilton Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Hamilton 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 obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several 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 offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Hamilton Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hamilton AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Hamilton AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, 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 can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for 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 a few Hamilton AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program 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 submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hamilton AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum 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 therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Hamilton AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Hamilton medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Hamilton AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Hamilton AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Hamilton Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Hamilton Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize 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 field so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hamilton Alabama.


 

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