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

Russellville Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Russellville AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we cover 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?

Russellville Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Russellville AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Russellville AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Russellville Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and often incorporate 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 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 complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 available in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Russellville Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature 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 an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Russellville AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Russellville AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you need to make sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 enroll in an online college, it may also obtain 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, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Russellville AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Russellville AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Russellville AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Russellville healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Russellville AL residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble 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 college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Russellville AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Russellville Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Right Russellville Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you must make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Russellville Alabama.


 

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