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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Irondale Alabama

Irondale Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Irondale AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Irondale Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Irondale AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Irondale AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Irondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered 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 explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Irondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Irondale Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Irondale AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Irondale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you need to be sure that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at 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 enroll in an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Irondale AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Irondale AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ 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 Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have relationships with Irondale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Irondale healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Irondale AL residence. Individuals who have chosen 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 importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Irondale AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify 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 may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Irondale Online Physical Therapy Programs

Enroll in the Best Irondale Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental 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 achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Irondale Alabama.


 

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