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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist School Near Lincoln Alabama

Lincoln Alabama physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Lincoln AL is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated 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 acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will furnish a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Lincoln Alabama physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Lincoln AL hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Lincoln AL medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. 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 keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Lincoln Alabama DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Lincoln AL area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Lincoln Alabama female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as common as the on campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Lincoln AL home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Lincoln AL area and across Alabama, you'll need to research additional qualifications also in order to further reduce your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you enroll in the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, 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 college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program 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. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Contact several Lincoln AL physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alabama Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students left because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Lincoln AL area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select provides both excellent training and a curriculum that supports the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Lincoln AL hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Lincoln healthcare community and help with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Lincoln AL home. 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 local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance department and see what type of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Lincoln AL area, verify that they are available. 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 carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Lincoln Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Lincoln Physical Therapy School

Picking the right physical therapy program is a necessary initial decision you must make to start a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many variables will lead you toward your final decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Lincoln Alabama.


 

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