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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Ozark Alabama

Ozark Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Ozark AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Ozark Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Ozark AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 touched on, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Ozark AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Ozark Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Ozark 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 a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 three years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Ozark Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, 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 necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Ozark AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Ozark AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure 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 securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Ozark AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Ozark AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select furnishes 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 performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Ozark AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Ozark medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with several 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 choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Ozark AL residence. Students who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid office and find out what type of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Ozark AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Ozark Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Ozark Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Ozark Alabama.


 

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