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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Spanish Fort Alabama

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Spanish Fort AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the healthcare 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 work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Spanish Fort Alabama DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Spanish Fort AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Spanish Fort AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Spanish Fort AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may 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 programs are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

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 offered in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having 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 Online Programs

Spanish Fort Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, 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 integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Spanish Fort AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial questions, including the type 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 considering there are so many PT colleges within the Spanish Fort AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional 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 enroll in an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for 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 several Spanish Fort AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school selections. It may also be a good idea 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Spanish Fort AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also affirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Spanish Fort AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally 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 health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Spanish Fort AL residence. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what kind of help is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer 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 School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Spanish Fort AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Spanish Fort Online Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Right Spanish Fort Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy school is an important first decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Spanish Fort Alabama.


 

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