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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Tuscaloosa Alabama

Tuscaloosa Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Tuscaloosa AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are thinking about to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we cover 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?

Tuscaloosa Alabama physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Tuscaloosa AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Tuscaloosa AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

Tuscaloosa Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Tuscaloosa AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order 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 complete, making the total commitment 7 years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Tuscaloosa Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Tuscaloosa AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Tuscaloosa AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as 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 choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of 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 search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact several Tuscaloosa AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care 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 a good idea 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 School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Tuscaloosa AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have associations with Tuscaloosa AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Tuscaloosa health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor 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 as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Tuscaloosa AL home. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tuscaloosa AL area, make sure that they are offered. 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 enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Tuscaloosa Physical Therapy Programs

Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist 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 choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Tuscaloosa Alabama.


 

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