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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Leeds Alabama

Leeds Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Leeds AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Leeds Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Leeds AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Leeds AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Leeds Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Leeds AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only 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 phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Leeds Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Leeds AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Leeds AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to be sure that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at 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 choose an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call several Leeds AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After 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 Leeds AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have partnerships with Leeds AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Leeds health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Leeds AL residence. Students 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 concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Leeds AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Leeds Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Right Leeds Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapy college is an important first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that many variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Leeds Alabama.


 

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