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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist College Near Prichard Alabama

Prichard Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Prichard AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are looking at to make certain they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Prichard Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Prichard AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Prichard AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Prichard Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Prichard AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

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. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Prichard Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, 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 college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Prichard AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Prichard AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you need to make certain that you pick the college that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at 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 choose an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Prichard AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent 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 Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Prichard AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Prichard AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, 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 relationships in the Prichard medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the typical teacher to student 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 converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Prichard AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing 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 may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Prichard AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Prichard Online Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Right Prichard Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk with active 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 adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Prichard Alabama.


 

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