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How to Find the Right Physical Therapy College Near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Fairbanks AK is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to 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 school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to research the ones you are looking at to make sure they will supply a superior education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Fairbanks Alaska physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in diverse locations, such as Fairbanks AK hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Fairbanks AK medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, 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 routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Fairbanks Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as 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 descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Fairbanks AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete 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 must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning 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 element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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 attainable 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 existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Fairbanks Alaska woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairbanks AK residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapy degree you would like to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Fairbanks AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you pick the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 choose an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, beginning with requesting 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 Fairbanks AK physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean 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 college's job placement program, particularly in the Fairbanks AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in provides both superior training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have associations with Fairbanks AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist graduates and students form professional relationships in the Fairbanks medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing 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 ultimate determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they select will have to be within travelling distance of their Fairbanks AK residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of aid is offered. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy school you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Fairbanks AK area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Fairbanks Online Physical Therapist Programs

Choose the Right Fairbanks Physical Therapy School

Picking the best physical therapist program is an important initial decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college bear in mind that a number of factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Fairbanks Alaska.


 

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