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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy College Near Pinson Alabama

Pinson Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Pinson AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered 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's Job Description?

Pinson Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Pinson AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Pinson AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly 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

Pinson Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Pinson AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically provided by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary 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 a minimum of 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 finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in several 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Pinson Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined 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 segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pinson AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Pinson AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Pinson 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 recommendations about your school options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Pinson AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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 differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have associations with Pinson AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Pinson medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Pinson AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally 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 Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Pinson AL area, confirm 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 have to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Pinson Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Pinson Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to view 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 following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Pinson Alabama.


 

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