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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Tuscaloosa AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Tuscaloosa Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Tuscaloosa AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Tuscaloosa AL health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Tuscaloosa Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable 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 summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Tuscaloosa AL area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed 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 instituted.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Tuscaloosa Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tuscaloosa AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Tuscaloosa AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you choose the college 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 each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier mentioned, 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 may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Tuscaloosa AL physical therapist 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 selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Tuscaloosa AL area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Tuscaloosa AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak 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 therapy college they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Tuscaloosa AL home. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office 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. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist program you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, verify that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Tuscaloosa Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Choose the Best Tuscaloosa Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy program is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you pick should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak 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 adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.


 

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