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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist School Near Eagle River Alaska

Eagle River Alaska physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Eagle River AK is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Eagle River Alaska DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Eagle River 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 touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Eagle River AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into 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 Therapy Degree Options

Eagle River Alaska physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Eagle River AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

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

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Eagle River Alaska woman taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Eagle River AK residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses 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 ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Eagle River AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 enroll in an online college, it may also receive 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 just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for 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. Call several Eagle River AK physical therapist clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program options. It might also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Eagle River AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the program you enroll in provides both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Eagle River AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Eagle River health care community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing 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 ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will have to be within driving distance of their Eagle River AK residence. Those who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. 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 might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what type of help is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Eagle River AK area, verify 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 carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Eagle River Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Best Eagle River Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapist college is an important first decision you must make to begin a fulfilling career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many variables will guide you toward your final decision. You may decide to visit different schools to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Eagle River Alaska.


 

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