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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Sheffield Alabama

Sheffield Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Sheffield AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Sheffield Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including 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 earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Sheffield AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Sheffield Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Sheffield 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 be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Sheffield Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure 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 in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sheffield AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Sheffield AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier 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 choose an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact several Sheffield AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your school options. 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 filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Sheffield AL area? If a program 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 large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important 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 practicing. In each state a passing score is required 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, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Sheffield AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Sheffield medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely 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 average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Sheffield AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to bear 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 may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of help is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can offer 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 Sheffield AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Sheffield Online Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Best Sheffield Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapist program is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Sheffield Alabama.


 

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