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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Northport AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals 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 must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Northport Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Northport AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Northport Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Northport AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the considerable classroom and lab 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 attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Northport Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Northport AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Northport AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Northport AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Northport AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college 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 needed 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 PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have associations with Northport AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Northport medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Northport AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what kind of help is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Northport AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Northport Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Best Northport Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Northport Alabama.


 

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