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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Orange Beach Alabama

Orange Beach Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Orange Beach AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school 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 besides location and cost. 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Orange Beach Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Orange Beach AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Orange Beach AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Orange Beach Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of licensed 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 implemented.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Orange Beach Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Orange Beach AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar 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 benefits can make the online option 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 regarding several of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Orange Beach AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make sure that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program'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 agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several 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 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 find out 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 should find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Orange Beach 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 excellent. It also verifies that the program has a wide 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 college you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with Orange Beach AL clinics or hospitals 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 develop professional connections in the Orange Beach health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Orange Beach AL home. Individuals who have decided 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 consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically 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 Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist school you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Orange Beach AL area, verify that they are available. 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 enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Orange Beach Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Best Orange Beach Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy college is an important first decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk to current 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 supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Orange Beach Alabama.


 

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