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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Valley AL is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we cover 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?

Valley Alabama physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse settings, including Valley AL private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Valley AL health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, 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

Valley Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Valley AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 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 licensed practicing 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 three years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only 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 USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Valley Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Valley AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding a few of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Valley AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make sure that you enroll in the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously mentioned, 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 can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting 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 some Valley AL physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Valley 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 perhaps exceptional. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose furnishes both excellent 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Valley AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Valley healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit 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 prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Valley AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

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

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Valley 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 courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Valley Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Valley Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist college is an important first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different colleges to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Valley Alabama.


 

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