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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Pelham AL is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Pelham Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Pelham 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 stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Pelham AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Pelham Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Pelham AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained 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. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Pelham Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Pelham AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, 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 colleges within the Pelham AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you need to make certain that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Pelham AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program selections. 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 submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Pelham AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Pelham AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to obtain 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 may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Pelham healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Pelham AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and find out what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Pelham AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Pelham Online Physical Therapy Programs

Enroll in the Best Pelham Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Pelham Alabama.


 

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