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

Homewood Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Homewood AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Homewood Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Homewood AL hospitals, health clinics, 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 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 develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Homewood AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Degrees Available

Homewood Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Homewood AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required 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 generally require four years to finish and often incorporate 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 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 finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Homewood Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated 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 curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Homewood AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you most likely have made a decision regarding several of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Homewood AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 enroll in an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call a few Homewood AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Homewood AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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 fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have partnerships with Homewood AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Homewood healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing 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 a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Homewood AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

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

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Homewood AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Homewood Physical Therapy Programs

Enroll in the Right Homewood Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing 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 right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Homewood Alabama.


 

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