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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Spanish Fort Alabama

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Spanish Fort AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Spanish Fort AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep 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 Degree Options

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Spanish Fort AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be 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 programs 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 normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Spanish Fort Alabama woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature 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 nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Spanish Fort AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your initial queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Spanish Fort AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 choose an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College'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 multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Spanish Fort AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Spanish Fort AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose furnishes 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are interested in have associations with Spanish Fort AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Spanish Fort medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within commuting distance of their Spanish Fort AL home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble 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 choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Spanish Fort 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 protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

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Choose the Best Spanish Fort Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you must make to begin a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Spanish Fort Alabama.


 

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