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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Mountain Brook Alabama

Mountain Brook Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Mountain Brook AL is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Mountain Brook Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Mountain Brook AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

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

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Mountain Brook Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Mountain Brook Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Mountain Brook AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Mountain Brook AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs 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 reviewing 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 enroll in an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Mountain Brook AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Mountain Brook AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose 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 every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have relationships with Mountain Brook AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Mountain Brook medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Mountain Brook AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Mountain Brook AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Mountain Brook Physical Therapy Programs

Choose the Right Mountain Brook Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different colleges to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Mountain Brook Alabama.


 

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