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How to Find the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Anchorage AK is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the proper training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to research those you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Anchorage Alaska DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Anchorage AK hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Anchorage AK medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Anchorage Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Anchorage AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of at least 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). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. Some 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 Degrees Online

Anchorage Alaska female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Anchorage AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly 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 advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Anchorage AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to look into additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you choose the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call some Anchorage AK physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Anchorage AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In each 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 vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have partnerships with Anchorage AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Anchorage healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Anchorage AK residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are considering have a financial aid department and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Anchorage AK area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Anchorage Physical Therapist Training

Enroll in the Best Anchorage Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapist college is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to visit each of the colleges to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Anchorage Alaska.


 

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