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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Vestavia Hills Alabama

Vestavia Hills Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Vestavia Hills AL is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are considering to make certain they will provide a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important 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?

Vestavia Hills Alabama DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Vestavia Hills AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Vestavia Hills AL health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Vestavia Hills Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Vestavia Hills AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train 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 programs are most often offered by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually 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 complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced 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 in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Vestavia Hills Alabama female student taking physical therapist training onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Vestavia Hills AL residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less 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 can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Vestavia Hills AL area and across Alabama, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national 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 select an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist 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 acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call several Vestavia Hills 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 school options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Vestavia Hills AL area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have associations with Vestavia Hills AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to obtain practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help students and graduates develop professional connections in the Vestavia Hills healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Vestavia Hills AL residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program 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 typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Vestavia Hills AL area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Vestavia Hills Online Physical Therapist Majors

Enroll in the Best Vestavia Hills Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Vestavia Hills Alabama.


 

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