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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy School Near Phenix City Alabama

Phenix City Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Phenix City AL is an essential 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 regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Phenix City Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Phenix City AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression 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
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Phenix City AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Phenix City Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing 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 prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Phenix City Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Phenix City AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Phenix City AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 choose an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Phenix City AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Phenix City AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although 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 tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have associations with Phenix City AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Phenix City health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at 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 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 as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Phenix City AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously 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 consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Phenix City AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Phenix City Online Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Right Phenix City Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that many variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Phenix City Alabama.


 

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