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

Spanish Fort Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Spanish Fort AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate 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 selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are looking at to make certain they will supply a quality education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Spanish Fort Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Spanish Fort AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Spanish Fort AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite 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 Therapist Degrees Available

Spanish Fort Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Spanish Fort AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 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 commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, 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 USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Spanish Fort Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum can 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 can be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Spanish Fort AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make sure that you enroll in the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, 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 may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for 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. Call a few Spanish Fort AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your school selections. It might also be a good idea 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Spanish Fort AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have associations with Spanish Fort AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Spanish Fort medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Spanish Fort AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally 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 keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Spanish Fort AL area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Spanish Fort Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Right Spanish Fort Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy school is an important initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options 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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