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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy School Near Meadowbrook Alabama

Meadowbrook Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Meadowbrook AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Meadowbrook Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including 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 in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Meadowbrook AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely 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

Meadowbrook Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can 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 degrees are most often provided by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 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 commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Meadowbrook Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Meadowbrook AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Meadowbrook AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few Meadowbrook AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school options. It might also be prudent to contact 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 couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Meadowbrook AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both excellent 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Meadowbrook AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Meadowbrook health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Meadowbrook AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required 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 Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Meadowbrook AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Meadowbrook Online Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Right Meadowbrook Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Meadowbrook Alabama.


 

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