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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Leeds Alabama

Leeds Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Leeds AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss 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?

Leeds Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice 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 are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Leeds AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Leeds Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become 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 programs are typically made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, 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. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Leeds Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum 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 a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Leeds AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make certain that you choose the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online school, it can 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 just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Leeds AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate 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 hired with the support of the college'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 medical care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have relationships with Leeds AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Leeds medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average 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 determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Leeds AL residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Leeds AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Leeds Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Best Leeds Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is an important initial decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Leeds Alabama.


 

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