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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Northport Alabama

Northport Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Northport AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Northport Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Northport AL private practices, hospitals, 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 previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Northport AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Northport Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Northport AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some 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 offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Northport Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Northport AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Northport AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make certain that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few Northport AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Northport AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Northport healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Northport AL residence. Individuals who have opted 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 concern. One thing 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Northport AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Northport Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Best Northport Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current 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 following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Northport Alabama.


 

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