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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Tuscumbia Alabama

Tuscumbia Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Tuscumbia AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate 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 college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will deliver 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 lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Tuscumbia Alabama DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Tuscumbia AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Tuscumbia AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Tuscumbia Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Tuscumbia AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some 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. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Tuscumbia Alabama female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of 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 school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tuscumbia AL residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Tuscumbia AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you want to make certain that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously stated, 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 school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting 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 organizations for their reviews also. Call a few Tuscumbia AL physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your college options. It might 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 Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Tuscumbia AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every 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 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 supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Tuscumbia AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Tuscumbia health care community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Tuscumbia AL residence. Students who have opted 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 concern. Something 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 typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and find out what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tuscumbia AL area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need 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 emergencies.

Learn More About Tuscumbia Physical Therapy Programs

Choose the Best Tuscumbia Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to start a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school 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 field so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Tuscumbia Alabama.


 

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