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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Oxford AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Oxford Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Oxford AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have 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 often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Oxford AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Oxford Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Oxford AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Oxford Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Oxford AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Oxford AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the college that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 enroll in an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few Oxford AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Oxford AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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 therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have partnerships with Oxford AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Oxford health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Oxford AL home. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer 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 College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. 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 alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Oxford Online Physical Therapy Training

Choose the Best Oxford Physical Therapist School

Selecting the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You might decide to visit each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Oxford Alabama.


 

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