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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Rainbow City Alabama

Rainbow City Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Rainbow City AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not 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 important qualifications that need to be considered 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 what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Rainbow City Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Rainbow City AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share 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 design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Rainbow City AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Rainbow City Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Rainbow City AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as 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 GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 phased out 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 before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Rainbow City Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Rainbow City AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you probably have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Rainbow City AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply 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 mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of 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 check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Rainbow City AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Rainbow City AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports 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 therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Rainbow City AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Rainbow City health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average 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 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 Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Rainbow City AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and see what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants 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, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Rainbow City AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Rainbow City Online Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Right Rainbow City Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical 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 options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Rainbow City Alabama.


 

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