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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Oxford AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate 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 school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are looking at to make certain they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Oxford Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Oxford AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Oxford AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in 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 regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, 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 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Oxford AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take four 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 practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Oxford Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Oxford AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Oxford AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you choose the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at 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 can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Oxford AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Oxford 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 college you enroll in provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have partnerships with Oxford AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get 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 may assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Oxford health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few 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 therapy school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Oxford AL home. Those who have opted to attend classes online obviously 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 consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Oxford AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Oxford Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Best Oxford Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Oxford Alabama.


 

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