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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Eagle River Alaska

Eagle River Alaska physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Eagle River AK is a critical first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, 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 investigate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a quality education and satisfy 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 significant qualifications that need to be considered along with 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 what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Eagle River Alaska DPT assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, such as Eagle River AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Eagle River AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Eagle River Alaska physical therapist working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is attainable 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 readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Eagle River AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often offered by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they typically take four years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement in order 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 3 years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Eagle River Alaska female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so 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 in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Eagle River AK home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your initial queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Eagle River AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to explore other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school options. Also, you need to be sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As previously stated, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential 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 acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. 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 agencies for their reviews also. Contact some Eagle River AK physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Eagle River AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or even excellent. It also affirms that the college has a broad network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements 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 vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have partnerships with Eagle River AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to obtain hands on training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students develop professional connections in the Eagle River medical community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching 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 final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Eagle River AK home. Those who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern 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 school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally 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 Help Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Eagle River AK area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Eagle River Online Physical Therapy Training

Enroll in the Right Eagle River Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapist college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to go to different schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Eagle River Alaska.


 

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