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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Sheffield AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to ensure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Sheffield Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Sheffield 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 previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Sheffield AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage 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 going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Sheffield Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable 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. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Sheffield 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and often 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 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some 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. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Sheffield Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sheffield AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you most likely have come to decision regarding several of your initial queries, like the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Sheffield AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call some Sheffield AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program 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 filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Sheffield AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have associations with Sheffield AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Sheffield healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Sheffield AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to bear 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 may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sheffield AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Sheffield Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Right Sheffield Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is an important first decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school 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 training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Sheffield Alabama.


 

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