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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Hoover Alabama

Hoover Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Hoover AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Hoover Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Hoover AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment 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 due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Hoover AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Hoover Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Hoover AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 three years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Hoover Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so 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 requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hoover AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Hoover AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously mentioned, 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 school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Hoover AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Hoover AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have partnerships with Hoover AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Hoover medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Hoover AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry 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 choose to enroll in a school 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 typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Hoover AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Hoover Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Best Hoover Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college 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 options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Hoover Alabama.


 

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