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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Hartselle Alabama

Hartselle Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Hartselle AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Hartselle Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Hartselle AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Hartselle AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite 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 Degrees Offered

Hartselle Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Hartselle AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some 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 USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Hartselle Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Hartselle AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower 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 advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Hartselle AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make sure that you select the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Hartselle AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college 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 filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hartselle AL area? If a college 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 get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Hartselle AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Hartselle health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student 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 allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within driving distance of their Hartselle AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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 Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Hartselle AL area, make certain 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 have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Hartselle Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Right Hartselle Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapist college is an important first decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hartselle Alabama.


 

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