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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Saraland Alabama

Saraland Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Saraland AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover 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?

Saraland Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, including Saraland AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor 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
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

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

Physical Therapy Degrees

Saraland Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 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 complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Saraland Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Saraland AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures 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 ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as 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 since there are so many PT schools within the Saraland AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you choose the college that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 select an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting 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 also. Contact some Saraland AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Saraland AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. 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 fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have associations with Saraland AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Saraland medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? 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 considering what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Saraland AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance 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 offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Saraland AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Saraland Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Best Saraland Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapist program is an important first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Saraland Alabama.


 

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