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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Ozark Alabama

Ozark Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Ozark AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating 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 research those you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Ozark Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Ozark AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Ozark AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Ozark Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress 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 become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with 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 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

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 licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Ozark Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so 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 necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored 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 a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Ozark AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you choose the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Ozark AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program selections. It may also be a good idea 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 important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate 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 hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Ozark AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have relationships with Ozark AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Ozark healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the typical 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 talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Ozark AL home. Those who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Ozark AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Ozark Online Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Best Ozark Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Ozark Alabama.


 

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