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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Bethel Alaska

Bethel Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Bethel AK is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make sure they will supply a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Bethel Alaska physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Bethel AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Bethel AK medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Bethel Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Bethel AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually offered by community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral 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 at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an essential element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Bethel Alaska woman taking physical therapist courses onlineWhile not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Bethel AK residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Bethel AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to make certain that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier 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 enroll in an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with a few Bethel AK physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Bethel AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapy colleges you are assessing have partnerships with Bethel AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Bethel healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Bethel AK residence. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Bethel AK area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours 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 emergencies.

Learn More About Bethel Online Physical Therapy Majors

Choose the Right Bethel Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit different schools to see their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Bethel Alaska.


 

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