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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Pell City Alabama

Pell City Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Pell City AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. 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's Job Description?

Pell City Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Pell City 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 stated, physical therapists help individuals 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 resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Pell City AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Pell City Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Pell City AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some 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. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Pell City Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of 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 school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Pell City AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Pell City AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you choose the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain 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 important that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Pell City AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed 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 considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Pell City AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have relationships with Pell City AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Pell City health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Pell City AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Pell City AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative 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 as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Pell City Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Best Pell City Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapy college is an important first decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Pell City Alabama.


 

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