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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Northport AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we cover 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Northport Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Northport AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often 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 eradicate any pain. They also try to stop 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
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Northport AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Northport Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Northport AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep 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 initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing 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 complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several 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 USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Northport Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Northport AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, 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 Northport AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you select the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 select an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Northport AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Northport AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both excellent training and a course of study 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have associations with Northport AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Northport health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Northport AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep 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 might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Northport AL area, verify 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 need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Northport Online Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Best Northport Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is an important first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Northport Alabama.


 

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