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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy School Near Muscle Shoals Alabama

Muscle Shoals Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Muscle Shoals AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Muscle Shoals Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Muscle Shoals AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Muscle Shoals AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Muscle Shoals Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Muscle Shoals AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four 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 overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Muscle Shoals Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to 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 Muscle Shoals AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Muscle Shoals AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Muscle Shoals AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Muscle Shoals AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies 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 therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have associations with Muscle Shoals AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Muscle Shoals healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Muscle Shoals AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Muscle Shoals AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Muscle Shoals Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Right Muscle Shoals Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapy college is an important initial decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve 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 options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Muscle Shoals Alabama.


 

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