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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Jacksonville Alabama

Jacksonville Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Jacksonville AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Jacksonville Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Jacksonville AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by 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 strive 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
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Jacksonville AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Jacksonville Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable 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. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Jacksonville AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Jacksonville Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Jacksonville AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Jacksonville AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Jacksonville AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Jacksonville AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have associations with Jacksonville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional connections in the Jacksonville medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized 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 sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Jacksonville AL home. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern 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 perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Jacksonville AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative 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 because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Jacksonville Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Best Jacksonville Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Jacksonville Alabama.


 

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