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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Montgomery Alabama

Montgomery Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Montgomery AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about 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's Job Description?

Montgomery Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Montgomery 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent 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
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Montgomery AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Montgomery Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Montgomery AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 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 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 finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Montgomery Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Montgomery AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. 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 attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Montgomery AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 enroll in an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Montgomery AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Montgomery AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have relationships with Montgomery AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Montgomery healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Montgomery AL residence. Students who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Montgomery AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Montgomery Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Montgomery Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist program is an important initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important 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 best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Montgomery Alabama.


 

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