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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Prattville Alabama

Prattville Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Prattville AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are considering to make certain they will deliver a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Prattville Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Prattville AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. 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 frequently pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Prattville AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Prattville Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Prattville AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy 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 essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 training is an intregal element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Prattville Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Prattville AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Prattville AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 choose an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Prattville AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Prattville AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have partnerships with Prattville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Prattville healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type 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. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Prattville AL home. Students who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer 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 last you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Prattville AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Prattville Online Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Best Prattville Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist college is an important first decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Prattville Alabama.


 

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