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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Robertsdale Alabama

Robertsdale Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Robertsdale AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Robertsdale Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Robertsdale AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Robertsdale AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Robertsdale Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Robertsdale AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several 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 offered in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Robertsdale Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates 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 Robertsdale AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Robertsdale AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online college, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality 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 important that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Robertsdale AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction 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 Robertsdale AL area? If a school 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 school has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with 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 as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have associations with Robertsdale AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive hands on training 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 develop professional relationships in the Robertsdale medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Robertsdale AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically 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 Help Offered? Most DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

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

Learn More About Robertsdale Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Robertsdale Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to different schools 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 practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Robertsdale Alabama.


 

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