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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballEarning a physical therapy degree near Fairbanks AK is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled due to illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will furnish a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered along with 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's Job Description?

Fairbanks Alaska physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, such as Fairbanks AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Fairbanks AK medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Fairbanks Alaska DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate 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 target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Fairbanks AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to finish and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want 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 three years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the substantial 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 replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Programs

Fairbanks Alaska woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairbanks AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

By now you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Fairbanks AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Moreover, you want to be sure that you pick the college that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Fairbanks AK physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your program selections. It may also be a good idea 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 relevant statistics that you need to find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may suggest that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school'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 community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapist programs you are reviewing have relationships with Fairbanks AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to get practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional connections in the Fairbanks medical community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Fairbanks AK home. Those who have decided to attend classes online naturally will not have to worry 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 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 frequently charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and find out what type of assistance is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy program you ultimately select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Fairbanks AK area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Fairbanks Physical Therapy Majors

Enroll in the Right Fairbanks Physical Therapist School

Picking the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice also. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that many factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might want to go to different colleges to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Fairbanks Alaska.


 

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