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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Pinson Alabama

Pinson Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Pinson AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Pinson Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Pinson AL private practices, hospitals, 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 previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Pinson AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Pinson Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable 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. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Pinson AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Pinson Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pinson AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Pinson AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you choose 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 therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Pinson AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Pinson AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose 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 every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Pinson AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to receive hands on training 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 students and graduates establish professional connections in the Pinson medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want 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 classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Pinson AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often 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 Help Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist program you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Pinson AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Pinson Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Best Pinson Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Pinson Alabama.


 

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