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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Valley AL is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Valley Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Valley AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Valley AL health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Valley Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is offered 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Valley AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 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 3 years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Valley Alabama woman taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Valley AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Valley AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you select the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier mentioned, 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the college and program you choose 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 agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Valley AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Valley AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Valley AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Valley health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. 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 perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Valley AL home. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their prospective 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 obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of 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 assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Valley AL area, verify that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Valley Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Enroll in the Best Valley Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak with current 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 field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Valley Alabama.


 

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