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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Rainsville Alabama

Rainsville Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Rainsville AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Rainsville Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Rainsville AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Rainsville 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 bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Rainsville Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Rainsville AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available 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 requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Rainsville Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Rainsville AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you probably have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Rainsville AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for 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 several Rainsville AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Rainsville AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes both exceptional 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 needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Rainsville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Rainsville health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools 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 decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Rainsville AL residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously 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 keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist school you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Rainsville AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Rainsville Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Rainsville Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Rainsville Alabama.


 

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