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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Tarrant Alabama

Tarrant Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Tarrant AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. 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 significant qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Tarrant Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Tarrant 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 earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Tarrant AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Tarrant Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 three years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 attainable 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 present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Tarrant Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tarrant AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, 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 Tarrant AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously 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 select an online college, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research 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 agencies for their reviews also. Call some Tarrant AL physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Tarrant AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have relationships with Tarrant AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional connections in the Tarrant medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools 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 decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Tarrant AL home. Individuals who have chosen to attend classes online 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 bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what type of help is available. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tarrant AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Tarrant Online Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Best Tarrant Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Tarrant Alabama.


 

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