How to Select the Right Physical Therapist School Near Gateway Alaska
Earning a physical therapist degree near Gateway AK is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are considering to ensure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is select a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered besides 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 what the educational options are.
What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?
Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Gateway AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Osteoporosis and Arthritis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Fire injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Multiple Sclerosis
Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Gateway AK health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to bear in mind for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees
There are three physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Gateway AK area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a component of the curriculum.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are required 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 three years to complete, making the total commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in several 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 phased out and is no longer offered in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.
Physical Therapy Programs Online
While not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gateway AK residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges
At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding several of your initial questions, such as the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Gateway AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school options. Moreover, you need to make sure that you choose the program that is ideal for you. That's why we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are considering. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Ask if the programs you are reviewing 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 college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides ensuring that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent 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 may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Gateway AK physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program selections. It may also be prudent 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 Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Gateway AK area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also confirms that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose furnishes both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.
Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist programs you are evaluating have associations with Gateway AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Gateway medical community and help with job placement once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far 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 considering 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 final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with a few of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within driving distance of their Gateway AK home. Those who have chosen to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing 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 typically charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.
Is Financial Aid Provided? The majority of DPT schools offer some type of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are considering have a financial assistance office and see what kind of assistance is obtainable. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapy school you ultimately pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially crucial if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Gateway AK area, verify that they are available. 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 need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Gateway Physical Therapist School
Choosing the best physical therapy school is a necessary initial decision you need to make to launch a gratifying career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy program keep in mind that many factors will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gateway Alaska.