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

Anchorage Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Anchorage AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are looking at to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Anchorage Alaska physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying locations, including Anchorage AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues 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 abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Anchorage AK medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, 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 Degrees Offered

Anchorage Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Anchorage AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

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

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Anchorage Alaska woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of 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 nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Anchorage AK residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Anchorage AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you want to be sure that you select the program that is best for you. That's why we have collected a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, 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 can also obtain 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 simply the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning 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 also. Get in touch with several Anchorage AK physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your program 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 colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once 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 program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you enroll in 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy school. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are interested in have relationships with Anchorage AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates establish professional connections in the Anchorage medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Anchorage AK residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly 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 Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last 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 choose to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Anchorage AK area, verify that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Anchorage Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Anchorage Physical Therapist School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Anchorage Alaska.


 

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