How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy School Near Fairbanks Alaska
Receiving a physical therapy degree near Fairbanks AK is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are looking at to ensure they will supply a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.
What Does a Physical Therapist Do?
Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, including Fairbanks AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Cardiac arrest
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Fairbanks AK medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Therapist Degrees
There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Fairbanks AK area:
- Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can 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 degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually part of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally require 4 years to finish and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall commitment seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component in addition to the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapist Colleges Online
While not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairbanks AK home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Fairbanks AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make sure that you select the program that is right for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited? Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional 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 program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Fairbanks AK physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It may also be a good idea 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 Program'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 looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Fairbanks AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you select furnishes 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 required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have associations with Fairbanks AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get hands on training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Fairbanks healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Fairbanks AK residence. Students who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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 Help Offered? Most DPT colleges provide some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what kind of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fairbanks AK area, check that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Fairbanks Physical Therapist School
Selecting the right physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Fairbanks Alaska.