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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Mobile Alabama

Mobile Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Mobile AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Mobile Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying 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 have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Mobile AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Mobile Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Mobile AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and take about 2 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 developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 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 commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Mobile Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, 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 nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part 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 a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Mobile AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you pick the college that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 select an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school 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 receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Mobile AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school options. It might also be a good idea 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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 program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have associations with Mobile AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Mobile medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Mobile AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Mobile AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Mobile Online Physical Therapist Courses

Enroll in the Best Mobile Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. 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 college keep in mind that many factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish 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 best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Mobile Alabama.


 

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