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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Wetumpka Alabama

Wetumpka Alabama physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Wetumpka AL is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. 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 must receive the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Wetumpka Alabama physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Wetumpka AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. While 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 Wetumpka AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Wetumpka Alabama physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Wetumpka 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 usually made available by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 three years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion 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 United States. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Wetumpka Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Wetumpka AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning a few of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Wetumpka AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier mentioned, 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring 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 School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning 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 organizations for their reviews also. Call a few Wetumpka AL physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations 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 schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Wetumpka AL area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ 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 Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Wetumpka AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great manner to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Wetumpka health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing 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 a chance to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they choose will have to be within travelling distance of their Wetumpka AL home. Students who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind 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 commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Wetumpka AL area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Wetumpka Online Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Best Wetumpka Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional critical questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Wetumpka Alabama.


 

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