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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Anchorage AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we talk about 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?

Anchorage Alaska physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, including Anchorage AK hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Anchorage AK health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Anchorage Alaska DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is offered 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 advance to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Anchorage AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Anchorage Alaska woman taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are many 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 integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Anchorage AK residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Anchorage AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to explore other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you enroll in the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges 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 select an online college, it may also obtain 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 simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call a few Anchorage AK physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your program options. It might also be prudent to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Anchorage AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide 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 school you choose furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements 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 therapy school. While 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 additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are interested in have relationships with Anchorage AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Anchorage health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Anchorage AK residence. Students who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to consider 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 usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and see what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist school you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Anchorage AK area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Anchorage Physical Therapist Courses

Choose the Right Anchorage Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapist college is an important initial decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me accomplish 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 field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Anchorage Alaska.


 

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