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How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Valley Alabama

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Valley AL is an essential first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Valley Alabama DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse 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 earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships 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 for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Valley Alabama physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Valley AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Valley Alabama woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Valley AL residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition might be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Valley AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into other qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 choose an online school, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call some Valley AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your college options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired 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 healthcare community is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you select provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have relationships with Valley AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent manner to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Valley medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. 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 as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Valley AL home. 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 area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to 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 credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Valley Physical Therapy Training

Choose the Best Valley Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy program bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Valley Alabama.


 

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