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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Meadowbrook Alabama

Meadowbrook Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Meadowbrook AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. 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 prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Meadowbrook Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Meadowbrook AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share 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 suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Meadowbrook AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of 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 regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Meadowbrook Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Meadowbrook AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate 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 equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing 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 three years to finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Meadowbrook Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more 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 necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Meadowbrook AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding several of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Meadowbrook AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier 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 school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few Meadowbrook AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Meadowbrook AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have associations with Meadowbrook AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Meadowbrook healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Meadowbrook AL home. Individuals who have chosen 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. 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 have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist 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 must confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Meadowbrook 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 credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Meadowbrook Physical Therapy Majors

Enroll in the Right Meadowbrook Physical Therapist School

Picking the right physical therapy program is an important first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the healthcare field. 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 other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Meadowbrook Alabama.


 

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