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

College Alaska physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near College AK is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the necessary training and education. A PT must also become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we discuss 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 is a Physical Therapist?

College Alaska DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as College AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other College AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees

College Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available 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 prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the College 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 obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and often 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 three years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not solely 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 available in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

College Alaska female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more 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 requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's College AK residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you probably have made a decision regarding a few of your preliminary queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you want to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the College AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you need to be sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. 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 select an online college, it can also obtain 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, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. 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 check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact several College AK physical therapy centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations 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 schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the College AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both superior 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have associations with College AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the College healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their College AK home. Individuals 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 concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? Most DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist school you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the College AK area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About College Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right College Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist program is an important initial decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different colleges to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in College Alaska.


 

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