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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Southside AL is a critical first step to launching a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper 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 college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to location and cost. 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Southside Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Southside AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Southside AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. 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 field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Southside Alabama DPT 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 choices, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Southside AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and usually 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 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 commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 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 before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Southside Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Southside AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Southside AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you pick the program that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier mentioned, 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 college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Southside AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college selections. It might also be prudent to check with 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 couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Southside AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have relationships with Southside AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Southside medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within driving distance of their Southside AL residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 Offered? The majority of DPT colleges provide some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Southside AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. 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 Southside Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Best Southside Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options 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 Southside Alabama.


 

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