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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Princeton Alabama

Princeton Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Princeton AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. 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 the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we cover 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Princeton Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Princeton AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Princeton AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Princeton Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in 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. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Princeton AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as 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 programs are most often offered by community colleges, and take about two 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 developed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing 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 commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Princeton Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, 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 integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Princeton AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Princeton AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to be sure that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Princeton AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Princeton AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have relationships with Princeton AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Princeton medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at 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 ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Princeton AL home. Individuals who have opted 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 decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps 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 frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Princeton AL area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Princeton Online Physical Therapy Training

Choose the Best Princeton Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is an important first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Princeton Alabama.


 

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