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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Sylacauga Alabama

Sylacauga Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Sylacauga AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in 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 besides location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Sylacauga Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Sylacauga AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Sylacauga AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Sylacauga Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Sylacauga 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 a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community or junior 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 therapist training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 phased out and is no longer available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Sylacauga Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sylacauga AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less 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 ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Sylacauga AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 select an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can research 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 also. Contact a few Sylacauga AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program options. 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 find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After 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 Sylacauga AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you select furnishes both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements 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 college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Sylacauga AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific way to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Sylacauga health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Sylacauga AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even 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 normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

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

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sylacauga AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Sylacauga Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Right Sylacauga Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach 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 ideal 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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