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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist College Near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Muscle Shoals AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold 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 make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. 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's Job Description?

Muscle Shoals Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Muscle Shoals AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Muscle Shoals AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Muscle Shoals Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Muscle Shoals AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 the majority of cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 United States. 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 mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Muscle Shoals Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Muscle Shoals AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Muscle Shoals AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, 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 college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Muscle Shoals AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It might also be prudent 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 couple of important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Muscle Shoals AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both superior training and a curriculum that supports 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. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have partnerships with Muscle Shoals AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Muscle Shoals health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer 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 instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Muscle Shoals AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally 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 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 often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Muscle Shoals AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Muscle Shoals Online Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Right Muscle Shoals Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Muscle Shoals Alabama.


 

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