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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Opelika Alabama

Opelika Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Opelika AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Opelika Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, such as Opelika AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression 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
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

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

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Opelika Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Opelika AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare students to progress 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 generally take four years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Opelika Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Opelika AL residence. Online programs are not only partially 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 reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Opelika AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received 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 enroll in an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can research 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 organizations for their reviews also. Call a few Opelika AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program options. 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 submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Opelika AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Opelika AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Opelika medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer 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 instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Opelika AL home. Students 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 keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

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

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending 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, check if that is an alternative 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 because of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Opelika Physical Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Right Opelika Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy program is an important initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. 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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