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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Homewood Alabama

Homewood Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Homewood AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides cost and location. 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Homewood Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Homewood AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Homewood AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Homewood Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Homewood AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Homewood Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so 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 close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Homewood AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Homewood AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact several Homewood AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. It may 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction 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's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Homewood AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Homewood health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical teacher to student 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 a chance to speak with some 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 therapist school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Homewood AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Homewood AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Homewood Online Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Right Homewood Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many factors will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Homewood Alabama.


 

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