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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Theodore Alabama

Theodore Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Theodore AL is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make sure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to 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 the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Theodore Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Theodore AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Theodore AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Theodore Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing 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 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding 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 Degrees

Theodore Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Theodore AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, including the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Theodore AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you enroll in the college that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Theodore AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college options. It might also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Theodore AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports 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 therapist college. Although 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 additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing have relationships with Theodore AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to receive 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 Theodore medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller 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 prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Theodore AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may 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 important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Theodore AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. 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 Theodore Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Right Theodore Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy college is an important initial decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your final decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Theodore Alabama.


 

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