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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Smiths Station Alabama

Smiths Station Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Smiths Station AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are looking at to make certain they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss 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 physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Smiths Station AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Smiths Station AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Smiths Station Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Smiths Station AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish and commonly 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 must also 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 overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Smiths Station Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more 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 requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Smiths Station AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring 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 Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your initial queries, such as 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 since there are so many PT schools within the Smiths Station AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier stated, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Smiths Station AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school 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 College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Smiths Station AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have associations with Smiths Station AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great way to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Smiths Station health care community and assist with job placement 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 get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Smiths Station AL home. Individuals who have opted 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 generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Smiths Station AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol 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 Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Right Smiths Station Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you must 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 select should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Smiths Station Alabama.


 

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