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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Opelika AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about 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?

Opelika Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Opelika AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Opelika AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Opelika Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Opelika AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be 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 degrees are usually provided by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 three years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Opelika Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many 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 segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort 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 somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Opelika AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 choose an online program, it can also receive 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, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning 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 organizations for their reviews as well. Call a few Opelika AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Opelika AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have relationships with Opelika AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Opelika medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Opelika AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern 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 choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Opelika AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Opelika Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Right Opelika Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Opelika Alabama.


 

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