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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Southside AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are considering to make certain they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Southside Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Southside AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Southside Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Southside AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some 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. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Southside Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy 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 necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Southside AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Southside AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you enroll in the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Call some Southside AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Southside AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have partnerships with Southside AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Southside healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Southside AL home. Those who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support 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 department and find out what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist school you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Southside AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Southside Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Southside Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Southside Alabama.


 

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