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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist School Near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Mountain Brook AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about 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?

Mountain Brook Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Mountain Brook 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 suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. 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. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Mountain Brook AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Mountain Brook Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Mountain Brook AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about 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 designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 3 years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just 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 licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Mountain Brook Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Mountain Brook AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Mountain Brook AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Mountain Brook AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Mountain Brook AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select provides 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have associations with Mountain Brook AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Mountain Brook health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Mountain Brook AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Help Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally pick 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 night or weekend classes in the Mountain Brook AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Mountain Brook Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Right Mountain Brook Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must make to begin a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Mountain Brook Alabama.


 

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