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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Irondale Alabama

Irondale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Irondale AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Irondale Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Irondale AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Irondale AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Irondale Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as 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. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Irondale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become 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 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 normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed 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 important element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Irondale Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Irondale AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Irondale AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 enroll in an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Irondale AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school options. It may also be a good idea to check with 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 Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Irondale AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have partnerships with Irondale AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Irondale health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Irondale AL home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern 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 decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of aid is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Irondale AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Irondale Online Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Right Irondale Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapist program is an important initial decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. 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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