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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Leeds Alabama

Leeds Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Leeds AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Leeds Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Leeds AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Leeds AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Therapy Degrees Offered

Leeds Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Leeds AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, 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. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Leeds Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Leeds AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Leeds AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously mentioned, 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 may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Leeds AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It may 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 schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Leeds AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have associations with Leeds AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Leeds medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student 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 talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Leeds AL residence. Those who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of assistance is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Leeds AL area, make certain 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 might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Leeds Physical Therapist Training

Choose the Best Leeds Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist program is an important initial decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize 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 ideal choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Leeds Alabama.


 

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