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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with female patient using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Valley AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Valley Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Valley AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Valley AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

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

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by community or junior 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 curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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. Clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Valley Alabama woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated 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 part of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Valley AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Valley AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 enroll in an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check 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 mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college'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 as well. Contact a few Valley AL physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed 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 schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Valley AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing criteria 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 school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Valley AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Valley medical 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 rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Valley AL home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing 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 be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Support Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can offer 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 Valley AL area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Valley Online Physical Therapy Programs

Enroll in the Best Valley Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapist program is an important first decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in 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 therapist program bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Valley Alabama.


 

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