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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Meridianville Alabama

Meridianville Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Meridianville AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Meridianville Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Meridianville AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Meridianville AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Meridianville Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Meridianville 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 qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and take about 2 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 created as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable 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 requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Meridianville Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Meridianville AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures 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 ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Meridianville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier mentioned, 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT college'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. Call a few Meridianville AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Meridianville AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed 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 PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have associations with Meridianville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Meridianville health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical student to teacher 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 talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Meridianville AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind 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 commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Meridianville AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative 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 might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Meridianville Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Best Meridianville Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Meridianville Alabama.


 

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