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

Homewood Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Homewood AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply 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 in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Homewood Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Homewood AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of 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 create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

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

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Homewood Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Homewood AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 complete, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently 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 phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Homewood Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Homewood AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages 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

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer 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 need to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you pick the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 choose an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few Homewood AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure 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 college's job placement program, particularly in the Homewood AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have relationships with Homewood AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Homewood medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Homewood AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Homewood AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Homewood Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Right Homewood Physical Therapist School

Picking the right physical therapist college is an important first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach 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 appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Homewood Alabama.


 

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