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

Sylacauga Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Sylacauga AL is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Sylacauga Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Sylacauga AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, 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 resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Sylacauga AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Sylacauga Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Sylacauga AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Sylacauga Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Sylacauga AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Sylacauga AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 choose an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing 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 Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Sylacauga AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Sylacauga AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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 college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have associations with Sylacauga AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Sylacauga medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are looking at what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to talk with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Sylacauga AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sylacauga AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative 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 because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sylacauga Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Right Sylacauga Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare 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 other critical questions that you should ask concerning your college 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 to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different schools 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 additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Sylacauga Alabama.


 

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