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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Madison Alabama

Madison Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Madison AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Madison Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Madison 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 experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Madison AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often 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

Madison Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Madison AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and commonly 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Madison Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near 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 Madison AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Madison AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Madison AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program 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 filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Madison AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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 therapy 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 additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have associations with Madison AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Madison health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical 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 speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Madison AL home. Students who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Madison AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Madison Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Best Madison Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist program is an important initial decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Madison Alabama.


 

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