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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Spanish Fort Alabama

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Spanish Fort AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Spanish Fort AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Spanish Fort AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Spanish Fort Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Spanish Fort AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by junior or community 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 program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Spanish Fort Alabama woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough 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 combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Spanish Fort AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Spanish Fort AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Spanish Fort AL physical therapist centers 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 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 submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Spanish Fort AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have partnerships with Spanish Fort AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Spanish Fort healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Spanish Fort AL home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are considering have a financial aid office and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Spanish Fort AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Spanish Fort Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Right Spanish Fort Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapist program is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college 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 Spanish Fort Alabama.


 

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