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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist School Near Smiths Station Alabama

Smiths Station Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Smiths Station AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Smiths Station Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Smiths Station AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Smiths Station AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, 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 Degree Options

Smiths Station Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Smiths Station AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. A number of 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 implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Smiths Station Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Smiths Station AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Smiths Station AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to be sure that you select the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning 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 agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Smiths Station AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Smiths Station 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 perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose furnishes 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Smiths Station AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical 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 connections in the Smiths Station medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably 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 prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Smiths Station AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid department and see what kind of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Smiths Station AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Smiths Station Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Right Smiths Station Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapy program is an important initial decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical 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 have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Smiths Station Alabama.


 

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