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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Oxford AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Oxford Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Oxford AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Oxford AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for 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 rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Oxford Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Oxford AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only 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 USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Oxford Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Oxford AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Oxford AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting 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 agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Oxford AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It might also be prudent 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Oxford AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have associations with Oxford AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner 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 can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Oxford health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Oxford AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Oxford AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify 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 may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Oxford Online Physical Therapist Training

Choose the Right Oxford Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide 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 reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Oxford Alabama.


 

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