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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Midfield Alabama

Midfield Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Midfield AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper 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 college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Midfield Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Midfield AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate 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
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Midfield AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Midfield Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered 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 advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Midfield AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be 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 degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 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 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 the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable 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 current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Midfield Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Midfield AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on-campus options, 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 ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Midfield AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 enroll in an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Midfield AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure 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 Midfield AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select provides both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have associations with Midfield AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Midfield health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Midfield AL residence. Students who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often 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 Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Midfield AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Midfield Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Right Midfield Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Midfield Alabama.


 

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