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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Trussville Alabama

Trussville Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Trussville AL is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make sure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Trussville Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Trussville AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment 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 caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Trussville AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Trussville Alabama DPT working with man in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or may 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 typically 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 normally a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 three years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Trussville Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Trussville AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Trussville AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you choose the program that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you enroll in an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact a few Trussville AL physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. It may also be prudent 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 couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Trussville AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you select furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Trussville AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Trussville health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Trussville AL home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local 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 perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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 Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Trussville AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Trussville Online Physical Therapist Courses

Choose the Right Trussville Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy program is an important initial decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach 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 right selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Trussville Alabama.


 

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