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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Irondale Alabama

Irondale Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Irondale AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. 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 woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Irondale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Irondale AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Irondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Irondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal 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 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 licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Irondale Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part 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 instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Irondale AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 select an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Irondale AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program 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 filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Irondale AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have relationships with Irondale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Irondale medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Irondale AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously 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 decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Irondale AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Irondale Online Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Best Irondale Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy college is an important initial decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Irondale Alabama.


 

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