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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Hartselle Alabama

Hartselle Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Hartselle AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. 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 cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss 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?

Hartselle Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Hartselle AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Hartselle AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Hartselle Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate 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 emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Hartselle AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and usually incorporate 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 also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Hartselle Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Hartselle AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Hartselle AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 choose an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

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 community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Hartselle AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hartselle AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Hartselle AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Hartselle health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Hartselle AL home. Students who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry 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 choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even 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 normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Hartselle 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 courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Hartselle Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Hartselle Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapist college is an important first decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college 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 choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Hartselle Alabama.


 

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