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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Irondale Alabama

Irondale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Irondale AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to make certain they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Irondale Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, such as Irondale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Irondale AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear 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 kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Irondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Irondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Irondale Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Irondale AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Irondale AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Irondale AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program selections. It may also be prudent 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 two significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Irondale AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports 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 college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Irondale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally 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 Irondale medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity 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 many students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Irondale AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Irondale AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Irondale Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Right Irondale Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve 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 necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Irondale Alabama.


 

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