How to Become a Neurological Physical Therapist

Physical therapy is a demanding, but highly rewarding career. You are in a position to actively affect change within your community, to help others, and to provide your patients with both long term and short term care. You are empowered to literally change lives for the better.

Neurological physical therapy is an important part of that. And specialists in this particular branch of physical therapy work with patients to cure, or slow the spread of, degenerative diseases and neurological damage. Below, we’ve outlined a wide range of information that shows you how to become a neurological physical therapist.

Patients and Duties

Each of the five major branches of physical therapy differs from the next in terms of what kinds of ailments you are asked to treat and/or cure. Like geriatric physical therapy, neurological physical therapy is largely about long term care and maintenance of quality of life. Specifically, neurological physical therapists often deal with the following diseases and disorders:

  • Brain and spinal cord injuries
  • MS (Multiple Sclerosis)
  • Parkinson’s
  • Polyneuropathy
  • Vestibular disorders

In addition to the above, neurological physical therapists may also stray into territory more comfortable to cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapists, in terms of having to treat patients suffering from brain damage incurred as the result of a stroke or other afflictions which affect not only the pulmonary system, but inflict lasting neurological damage as well. Dealing with degenerative and debilitating diseases on a daily basis can lead to early burnout in some practitioners, so you need to go into neurological physical therapy with a passion for your work, and an eye to helping your community long term. Other goals will likely not sustain you over the length of a full career.

Undergraduate Education

It is necessary to acquire an Undergraduate (Bachelor’s) Degree before you can legally practice as a physical therapist. The BSc, or Bachelor of Sciences, is recommended as it opens doorways that will be helpful to you later if and when you take a Graduate Degree and want to specialize as a neurological physical therapist.

Experience

Practical experience is a definite boon to students seeking to go into practice after graduating with their Undergraduate Degree. As most physical therapy schools require clinical practice in the field in order to graduate, finding a placement or co-op is easier than if you were trying to gain a training position on your own. Volunteer work in a clinical rehabilitation center – focusing on neurological physical therapy – is one excellent route to getting practical, immediately applicable training that you can use to enhance your CV post graduation.

Graduate School

When undertaking your Graduate Degree to specialize in neurological physical therapy, make sure you find a program in a school that caters specifically to your chosen specialization. General purpose Graduate Degrees in physical therapy are helpful, but not nearly as good as a quality program that caters to the needs of your individual career path.


It is also recommended that you, if possible given your choice of school and location, find a mentor, or enrol in a mentoring program. The direct aid and ability to ask questions of someone who has studied/practiced intensively is invaluable. If possible, you may wish to make this one consideration that weighs into your decision of which Graduate school for physical therapists to apply to.

Licensing

Once you have all your relevant degrees and are properly accredited, you will need to acquire a license to practice. This is accomplished through State licensing programs. Most States require two or more forms of exams before you can be fully licensed to practice neurological physical therapy.

The career path of a neurological physical therapist is a demanding one, to be sure. Like any medical profession it requires perseverance, a willingness to at times put the needs of the community before one’s own needs, and a compassionate approach to healthcare. But neurological physical therapy is also a highly rewarding profession, both professionally and personally. And the work is monetarily rewarding as well, ensuring that you can help others, and provide well for yourself and your family as well.

Now that you know the basics of how to become a neurological physical therapist, take the time to explore the options available to you regarding schools and training, and any financial aid available to you. Good luck!