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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist College Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Opelika AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Opelika Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Opelika AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Opelika AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Opelika Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Opelika AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four 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 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Opelika Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Opelika AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Opelika AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier mentioned, 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Opelika AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program options. It might also be a good idea to contact 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 two significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure 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 college's job placement program, particularly in the Opelika AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Opelika AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Opelika health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the average 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 a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Opelika AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Opelika AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Opelika Online Physical Therapy Programs

Enroll in the Best Opelika Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to begin a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Opelika Alabama.


 

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