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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Rainbow City Alabama

Rainbow City Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Rainbow City AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Rainbow City Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Rainbow City AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Rainbow City AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Rainbow City Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become 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. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Rainbow City AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Rainbow City Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Rainbow City AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures 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 right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Rainbow City AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing 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 college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school 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 guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Rainbow City AL physical therapist 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 might also be prudent 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 Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out 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 Rainbow City AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are interested in have associations with Rainbow City AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Rainbow City healthcare community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Rainbow City AL home. Students who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might 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 for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Rainbow City AL area, verify that they are offered. 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 procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Rainbow City Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Right Rainbow City Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical 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. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk with active 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 supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Rainbow City Alabama.


 

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