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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Pelham AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Pelham Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Pelham AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, 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 develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Pelham AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into 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 extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Pelham Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Pelham 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 earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to move up 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 normally require 4 years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Pelham Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pelham AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Pelham AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Pelham AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Pelham AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have relationships with Pelham AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Pelham medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Pelham AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist program you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Pelham AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. 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 Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Right Pelham Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Pelham Alabama.


 

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