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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist School Near Madison Alabama

Madison Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Madison AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make certain they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Madison Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Madison AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Madison Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Madison AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing 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 seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment 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 phased out and is no longer available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Madison Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Madison AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Madison AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 enroll in an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact several Madison AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school options. It may 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low 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 assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Madison AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both superior 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have associations with Madison AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Madison healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Madison AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose 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 often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist program you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Madison 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 have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Madison Physical Therapy Courses

Enroll in the Best Madison Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Madison Alabama.


 

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