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

Opelika Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Opelika AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to ensure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Opelika Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Opelika AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases 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 endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Opelika AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Opelika Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following 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 obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only 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. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Opelika Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, 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 necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can 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 many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money 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 additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you want to make sure that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 select an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized 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 aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Opelika AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. It may 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 significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest 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 support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Opelika AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies 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 program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have relationships with Opelika AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Opelika health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size 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 probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Opelika AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously 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 keep in mind is that if you choose 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 frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Opelika AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Opelika Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Best Opelika Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program 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 appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Opelika Alabama.


 

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