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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Orange Beach Alabama

Orange Beach Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Orange Beach AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. 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 work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. 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?

Orange Beach Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Orange Beach AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Orange Beach AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Orange Beach Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Orange Beach AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees 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 component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only 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. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Orange Beach Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Orange Beach AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Orange Beach AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have received 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few Orange Beach AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program 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 filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Orange Beach AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have relationships with Orange Beach AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Orange Beach medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching 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 final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Orange Beach AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Orange Beach AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Orange Beach Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Orange Beach Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is an important initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Orange Beach Alabama.


 

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