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

Oxford Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Oxford AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to make certain they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Oxford Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Oxford AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Oxford AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Oxford Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Oxford AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as 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 GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Oxford Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Oxford AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring 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.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Oxford AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential 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 ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning 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 organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Oxford AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Oxford AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are assessing have relationships with Oxford AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Oxford medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Oxford AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider 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 typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Oxford AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Oxford Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Best Oxford Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Oxford Alabama.


 

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