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

Orange Beach Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Orange Beach AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. 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 need to be evaluated in addition to 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Orange Beach Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Orange Beach 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Orange Beach AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather 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 Offered

Orange Beach Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Orange Beach AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and commonly 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Orange Beach Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can 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 instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, 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 explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, 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 school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting 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. Call a few Orange Beach AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Orange Beach AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests 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 obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Orange Beach AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Orange Beach health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. 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 College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Orange Beach AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required 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 live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and see what type of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Orange Beach AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Orange Beach Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Best Orange Beach Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapist college is an important first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Orange Beach Alabama.


 

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