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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist School Near Hueytown Alabama

Hueytown Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Hueytown AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Hueytown Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Hueytown AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Hueytown AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Hueytown Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Hueytown AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 attainable in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Hueytown Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Hueytown AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Hueytown AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 select an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college'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 organizations for their reviews as well. Call a few Hueytown AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Hueytown AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Hueytown AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Hueytown medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching 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 final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Hueytown AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you decide 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 usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Hueytown AL area, check that they are offered. 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 need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Hueytown Online Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Right Hueytown Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Hueytown Alabama.


 

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