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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Course Near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Valley AL is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Valley Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Valley AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Valley AL medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Valley Alabama DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single 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 advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Valley AL area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by community colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also 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 finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several 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. Some 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 instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Valley Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Valley AL home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Valley AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to make certain that you choose the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier stated, 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Valley AL physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. 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 College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools 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, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Valley AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist school. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have relationships with Valley AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Valley medical community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average 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 speak with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Valley AL residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

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

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy school you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Valley AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Valley Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Best Valley Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapist school is an important first decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you pick should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Valley Alabama.


 

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