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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Midfield Alabama

Midfield Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Midfield AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many 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 thinking about to make sure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to 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?

Midfield Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Midfield AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Midfield AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Midfield Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Midfield AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete 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 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 commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Midfield Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Midfield AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Midfield AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you pick the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned 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 enroll in an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school'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 also. Contact some Midfield AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may also be prudent 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Midfield AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have associations with Midfield AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Midfield medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Midfield AL residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes 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 bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college 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 typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Midfield AL area, check 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 need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Midfield Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Best Midfield Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. 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 want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Midfield Alabama.


 

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