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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Helena Alabama

Helena Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Helena AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. 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's Job Description?

Helena Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Helena AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Helena AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering 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 prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Helena Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered 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 advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Helena AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Helena Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Helena AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you probably have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Helena AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Helena AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Helena AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have relationships with Helena AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Helena health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Helena AL residence. 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 local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Helena AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Helena Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Helena Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Helena Alabama.


 

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