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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Pelham Alabama

Pelham Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Pelham AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we cover 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 DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Pelham AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Pelham AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Pelham Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Pelham AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 available in the United States. Some 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 instituted.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Pelham Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pelham AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Pelham AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you want to make certain that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 choose an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact a few Pelham AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Pelham AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have relationships with Pelham AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Pelham medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Pelham AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. 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 need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and see what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Pelham AL area, check 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 carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Pelham Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Best Pelham Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school 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 field so you can make the best selection. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Pelham Alabama.


 

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