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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Jacksonville Alabama

Jacksonville Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Jacksonville AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose 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 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Jacksonville Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Jacksonville AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Jacksonville 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. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Jacksonville Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Jacksonville Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Jacksonville AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Jacksonville AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned 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 select an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Jacksonville AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program options. It might also be a good idea 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 couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Jacksonville AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Jacksonville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Jacksonville medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Jacksonville AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide 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 generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Jacksonville AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Jacksonville Online Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Jacksonville Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Jacksonville Alabama.


 

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