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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Southside Alabama

Southside Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Southside AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Southside Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Southside AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Southside AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Southside Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Southside AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. 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 therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and usually incorporate 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of 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 available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Southside Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored 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 many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many 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 disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Southside AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Southside AL physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose provides 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary 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 tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Southside AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Southside medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. 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 speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Southside AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Southside AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Southside Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Right Southside Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you have to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Southside Alabama.


 

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