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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist School Near Phenix City Alabama

Phenix City Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Phenix City AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Phenix City Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Phenix City 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 mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Phenix City AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Phenix City Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and take about two 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 created as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing 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 total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Phenix City Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, 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 a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Phenix City AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Phenix City AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized 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 College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call a few Phenix City AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college options. 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 filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Phenix City AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have relationships with Phenix City AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional connections in the Phenix City health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Phenix City AL home. Students 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 be required 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 live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy program you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Phenix City AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Phenix City Physical Therapy Programs

Choose the Best Phenix City Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Phenix City Alabama.


 

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