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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Homewood AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Homewood Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Homewood AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Homewood AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Homewood Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist 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 focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Homewood AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 three years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Homewood Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Homewood AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Homewood AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select 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 just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Homewood AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college options. 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 filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean 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 support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Homewood AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have relationships with Homewood AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Homewood healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Homewood AL home. Students 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 choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Homewood AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Homewood Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Best Homewood Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You might want to visit different colleges to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Homewood Alabama.


 

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