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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist School Near Lincoln Alabama

Lincoln Alabama physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Lincoln AL is a critical first step to beginning a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are looking at to make sure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Lincoln Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, including Lincoln AL hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Lincoln AL medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Lincoln Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Lincoln 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 obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order to become a practicing licensed 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 finish, making the total investment of time 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

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 attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Lincoln Alabama female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Lincoln AL home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning several of your initial questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Lincoln AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to make certain that you pick the program that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier stated, 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 program, 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 just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program'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 agencies for their reviews as well. Contact some Lincoln AL physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your program 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 filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure 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 Lincoln AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have partnerships with Lincoln AL clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can assist students and graduates develop professional connections in the Lincoln medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will need to be within commuting distance of their Lincoln AL residence. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and see what type of aid is offered. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist school you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Lincoln AL area, check 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 work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Lincoln Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Right Lincoln Physical Therapist School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy school is an important first decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Lincoln Alabama.


 

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