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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy College Near Russellville Alabama

Russellville Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Russellville AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to ensure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated besides 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?

Russellville Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Russellville 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Russellville AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Russellville Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Russellville AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced 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 even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Russellville Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, 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 requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Russellville AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Russellville AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to make sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 choose an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few Russellville AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Russellville AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both exceptional 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have partnerships with Russellville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Russellville medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide 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 researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Russellville AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern 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 college 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 often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and find out what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Russellville AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Russellville Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Russellville Physical Therapy School

Selecting the best physical therapist program is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have discussed 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 additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might decide to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Russellville Alabama.


 

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