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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Mobile Alabama

Mobile Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Mobile AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number 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 thinking about to make sure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Mobile Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Mobile 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 previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Mobile AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise 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 thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Mobile Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Mobile AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become 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 programs are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed 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 instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Mobile Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so 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 requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Mobile AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Mobile AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Mobile AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Mobile AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ 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 tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Mobile AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Mobile health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Mobile AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online 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 keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what type of help is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Mobile 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 enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Mobile Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Right Mobile Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist school is an important initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Mobile Alabama.


 

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