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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Pell City Alabama

Pell City Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Pell City AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are considering to ensure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must 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 address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Pell City Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Pell City AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though 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
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Pell City AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Pell City Alabama DPT 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 available 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Pell City AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 phased out and is no longer available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having 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 Therapist Online Colleges

Pell City Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Pell City AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like 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 colleges within the Pell City AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional 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 select an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have excellent 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 refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Pell City AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer 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 colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school'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 excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies 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 differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Pell City AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain practical 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 help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Pell City healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Pell City AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program 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 confirm that the physical therapist school you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Pell City AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Pell City Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Best Pell City Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapy program is an important initial decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with active 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 options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Pell City Alabama.


 

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