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

Mobile Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Mobile AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Mobile Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Mobile AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Mobile AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, 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 considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Mobile Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Mobile AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and often include 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 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Mobile Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Mobile AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Mobile AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Mobile AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college selections. It might 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Mobile AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have relationships with Mobile AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Mobile medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Mobile AL home. Those who have chosen 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. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Mobile AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Mobile Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Best Mobile Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Mobile Alabama.


 

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