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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Sylacauga Alabama

Sylacauga Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Sylacauga AL is an essential first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can 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, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Sylacauga Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Sylacauga 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility issues 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 numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Sylacauga AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, 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 Therapy Degree Options

Sylacauga Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Sylacauga AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Sylacauga Alabama female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Sylacauga AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and expenditures 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.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Sylacauga AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you pick the college that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have excellent 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 place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact a few Sylacauga AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your college selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Sylacauga AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have relationships with Sylacauga AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to get hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Sylacauga medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Sylacauga AL home. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy program you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sylacauga AL area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sylacauga Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Right Sylacauga Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Sylacauga Alabama.


 

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