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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Sheffield AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Sheffield Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Sheffield AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Sheffield AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Sheffield Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Sheffield AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Sheffield Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Sheffield AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Sheffield AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you pick the college that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 select an online program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Sheffield 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 insight about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with 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 relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction 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 Sheffield AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have associations with Sheffield AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Sheffield health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Sheffield AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind 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 typically 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 Help Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sheffield AL area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sheffield Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Right Sheffield Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize 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 field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Sheffield Alabama.


 

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