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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Hartselle Alabama

Hartselle Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Hartselle AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding 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 provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we cover 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Hartselle Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Hartselle AL private practices, hospitals, 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 touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While 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 affiliation with other Hartselle AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Hartselle Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Hartselle Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature 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 in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hartselle AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Hartselle AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you pick the program 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 therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Hartselle AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Hartselle AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Hartselle AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Hartselle healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they select will have to be within driving distance of their Hartselle AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally 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. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of aid is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Hartselle AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Hartselle Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Hartselle Physical Therapy School

Selecting the best physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different colleges to view their facilities and talk to 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 additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hartselle Alabama.


 

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