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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Mobile Alabama

Mobile Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Mobile AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of 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 become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Mobile Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Mobile AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Mobile AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Mobile Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Mobile AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed 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 finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Mobile Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so 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 close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Mobile AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you probably have made a decision regarding some of your initial 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 numerous PT colleges within the Mobile AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you choose 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 ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Mobile AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program 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 School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college'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 field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose provides both excellent training and a course of study 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have partnerships with Mobile AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Mobile medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges 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 determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Mobile AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist 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 aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Mobile AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Mobile Online Physical Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Right Mobile Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many variables will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Mobile Alabama.


 

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