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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Leeds Alabama

Leeds Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Leeds AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are considering to make sure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. 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 helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Leeds AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Leeds AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Leeds Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered 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 obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 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 complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

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 offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having 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 Schools Online

Leeds Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum 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 many instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you probably have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Leeds AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. 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 search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Leeds AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to contact 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 Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Leeds AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Leeds AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Leeds medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Leeds AL home. Those who have opted 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 consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Leeds AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Leeds Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Leeds Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach 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 appropriate selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Leeds Alabama.


 

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