How to Find the Right Physical Therapy Degree Program Near Anchorage Alaska
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Anchorage AK is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to ensure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about 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 practice in diverse locations, including Anchorage AK hospitals, health clinics, 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 earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Knee Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Anchorage AK 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. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Anchorage AK area:
- Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the program.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want 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 three years to complete, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some 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 eliminated and is no longer offered 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 existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Online Schools
Although not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Anchorage AK home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, 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 spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Anchorage AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you choose the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final decision.
Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited? Ask if the programs you are looking at 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 program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.
What is the Program's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Anchorage AK physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Anchorage AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select furnishes both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy programs you are assessing have partnerships with Anchorage AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to obtain hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Anchorage healthcare community and help with job placement after licensing.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Anchorage AK residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. 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 may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally 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 Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.
Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Anchorage AK area, make certain that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Anchorage Physical Therapist School
Selecting the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach 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 options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Anchorage Alaska.