How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Lincoln Alabama
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Lincoln AL is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered in addition to location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Lincoln AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Lincoln AL medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may 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 considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Lincoln AL area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.
The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced 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 holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Online Programs
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Lincoln AL residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Lincoln AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you want to be sure that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 select an online college, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Lincoln AL physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program 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 submitted against the schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Lincoln AL area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or even excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have associations with Lincoln AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Lincoln healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few 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 therapy college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Lincoln AL residence. Students who have decided 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. 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 might be required 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 Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Lincoln AL area, verify that they are offered. 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 need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Lincoln Physical Therapy School
Selecting the right physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your final decision. You might want to visit different campuses to view their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Lincoln Alabama.