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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Fairbanks Alaska

Fairbanks Alaska physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Fairbanks AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate those you are looking at to ensure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is select a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated in addition to cost and location. 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 the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Fairbanks Alaska physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Fairbanks AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Fairbanks AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Fairbanks Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for individuals 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 concentrate on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short explanations 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 the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally require four years to complete 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 finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal component along with the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Fairbanks Alaska female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Fairbanks AK home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding a few of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Fairbanks AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to explore additional qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make certain that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. As earlier mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the college and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning 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 a few Fairbanks AK physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any advice about your college options. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, 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 healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you enroll in provides both superior training and a curriculum that supports 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Provided? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have relationships with Fairbanks AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Fairbanks medical community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical 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 some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Fairbanks AK residence. Students 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. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule night 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 procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Fairbanks Physical Therapist Training

Choose the Best Fairbanks Physical Therapy School

Selecting the right physical therapy school is an important initial decision you must make to start a gratifying career in the medical field. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you to your final decision. You might want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and talk to active 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 field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Fairbanks Alaska.


 

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