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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist School Near Russellville Alabama

Russellville Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Russellville AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Russellville Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Russellville AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Russellville AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, 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 Available

Russellville Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Russellville Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Russellville AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing 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 Schools

By now you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Russellville AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Russellville AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your college selections. It might 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 schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance 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 community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ 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? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have relationships with Russellville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Russellville healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Russellville AL residence. Those who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 Support Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Russellville AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Russellville Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Best Russellville Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapy college is an important initial decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. 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 other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Russellville Alabama.


 

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