How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy School Near Anchorage Alaska
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Anchorage AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must also be 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 necessary to evaluate the ones you are considering to ensure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists work in diverse settings, such as Anchorage AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Anchorage AK health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degree Options
There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Anchorage AK area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to complete and often 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing also.
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 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 requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
Although not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs 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 close to 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 Anchorage AK home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat 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 benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.
Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Anchorage AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you pick the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously 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 enroll in an online school, 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 recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Anchorage AK physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college options. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Anchorage AK area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even exceptional. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.
Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.
Are Internships Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have associations with Anchorage AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional connections in the Anchorage health care community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. 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 speak with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Anchorage AK residence. Students 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. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what type of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Anchorage AK area, confirm 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 have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Anchorage Physical Therapist School
Selecting the best physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to visit different colleges to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability 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 Anchorage Alaska.