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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Tarrant Alabama

Tarrant Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Tarrant AL is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. 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 lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Tarrant Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Tarrant AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Tarrant AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Tarrant Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Tarrant AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Tarrant Alabama female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tarrant AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Tarrant AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you pick the program that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier 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 college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Tarrant AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may 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 colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Tarrant AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have partnerships with Tarrant AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Tarrant healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Tarrant AL residence. 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 importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges provide some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tarrant AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Tarrant Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Tarrant Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize 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 field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Tarrant Alabama.


 

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