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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Troy Alabama

Troy Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Troy AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Troy Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Troy AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Troy AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Troy Alabama physical therapist 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 options, the one degree that is offered 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Troy AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as 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 equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community or junior colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 three years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor 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 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. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Troy Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Troy AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Troy AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Troy AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 Troy AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select provides both superior 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have relationships with Troy AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Troy 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 far in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they pick will need to be within driving distance of their Troy AL residence. Individuals who have opted 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 importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally 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? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Troy AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option 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 as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Troy Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Best Troy Physical Therapist School

Picking the right physical therapist school is an important first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Troy Alabama.


 

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