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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy School Near Smiths Station Alabama

Smiths Station Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Smiths Station AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Smiths Station Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Smiths Station AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Smiths Station AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Smiths Station Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students 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 concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Smiths Station AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only 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 offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Smiths Station Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, 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 requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Smiths Station AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may 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, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Smiths Station AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make certain that you pick the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges 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 college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check 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 assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Smiths Station AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Smiths Station AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each 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 differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have partnerships with Smiths Station AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Smiths Station healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the average teacher to student 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 some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Smiths Station AL home. Those who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in obtaining 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 eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Smiths Station AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Smiths Station Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Right Smiths Station Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Smiths Station Alabama.


 

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