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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Irondale Alabama

Irondale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Irondale AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Irondale Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Irondale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Irondale AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Irondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 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 three years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Irondale Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Irondale AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Irondale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all 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 earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 choose an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. 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 check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Irondale AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Irondale AL area? If a college has a higher 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 school has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose provides both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have partnerships with Irondale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain practical experience 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 form professional relationships in the Irondale health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical 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 an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Irondale AL home. Those who have decided to attend online classes 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 may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Irondale AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Irondale Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Right Irondale Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapy program is an important first decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Irondale Alabama.


 

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