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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Pleasant Grove Alabama

Pleasant Grove Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Pleasant Grove AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones 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 choose a college 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 considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Pleasant Grove Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Pleasant Grove 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 touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Pleasant Grove AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Pleasant Grove Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Pleasant Grove AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). 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 element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Pleasant Grove Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, 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 necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Pleasant Grove AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Pleasant Grove AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting 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. Call several Pleasant Grove AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. 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 filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out due to displeasure 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 Pleasant Grove AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have relationships with Pleasant Grove AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Pleasant Grove health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Pleasant Grove AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Pleasant Grove AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Pleasant Grove Physical Therapy Majors

Enroll in the Best Pleasant Grove Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Pleasant Grove Alabama.


 

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