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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Tuscumbia Alabama

Tuscumbia Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Tuscumbia AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Tuscumbia Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Tuscumbia AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases 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 prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Tuscumbia AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Tuscumbia Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations 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 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 programs are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order 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 total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently 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 available in the United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Tuscumbia Alabama woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of 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 nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Tuscumbia AL home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Tuscumbia AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you need to be sure that you choose the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Tuscumbia AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest 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 hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Tuscumbia 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 exceptional. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. 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 program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are assessing have associations with Tuscumbia AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Tuscumbia health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within travelling distance of their Tuscumbia AL residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern 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 program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and see what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate 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 confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Tuscumbia AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Tuscumbia Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Right Tuscumbia Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is an important first decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and talk with current 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 adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Tuscumbia Alabama.


 

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