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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Hueytown Alabama

Hueytown Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Hueytown AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are considering to ensure they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss 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?

Hueytown Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Hueytown AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Hueytown AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Hueytown Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available 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 advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Hueytown AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

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. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Hueytown Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature 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 a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Hueytown AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you probably have made a decision concerning a few of your initial queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Hueytown AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you select the college that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Hueytown AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your school options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out 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 dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Hueytown AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a broad 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 select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have partnerships with Hueytown AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional connections in the Hueytown healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering 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 final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Hueytown AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something 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 may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Hueytown AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Hueytown Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Hueytown Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak 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 additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Hueytown Alabama.


 

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