How to Select the Right Physical Therapy School Near Lincoln Alabama
Receiving a physical therapist degree near Lincoln AL is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists work in varying locations, such as Lincoln AL private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Lincoln AL health professionals, 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 take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapy Degrees
There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is offered 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 summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Lincoln AL area:
- Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified 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 often 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 must also 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely for graduation but in some 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 even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapist Schools Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to 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 college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Lincoln AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
By now you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary 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 spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Lincoln AL area and throughout Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to be sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, 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 important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact some Lincoln AL physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your college selections. It may 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 School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Lincoln AL area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you choose furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alabama or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Lincoln AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Lincoln medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student 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 a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will have to be within driving distance of their Lincoln AL residence. Those who have chosen to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 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 office and find out what kind of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Lincoln AL area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Lincoln Physical Therapy School
Picking the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Lincoln Alabama.