How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Gateway Alaska
Obtaining a physical therapist degree near Gateway AK is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the appropriate education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate the ones you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is enroll in a college just 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 considered along with cost and location. But before we discuss 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 varying locations, such as 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 diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and frequently pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Motor vehicle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Sports injuries
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Gateway AK health specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Gateway AK area:
- Associate Degrees train students to practice as 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 qualify for enrollment. The degrees are usually made available by junior or community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and often 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 also must 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 finish, making the total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 United States. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Schools Online
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so 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 necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gateway AK residence. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.
Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools
By now you probably have come to decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Gateway AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you pick the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.
Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited? Find out if the colleges you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. 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 choose an online program, it may also obtain 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 simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.
What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy community. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Gateway AK physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your school selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.
What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Gateway AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps excellent. It also confirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.
Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative 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 every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internships Sponsored? Inquire if the physical therapy colleges you are evaluating have associations with Gateway AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific manner to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional relationships in the Gateway healthcare community and help with obtaining employment once licensed.
What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.
Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Gateway AK residence. Students who have chosen to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges typically charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Support Provided? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department and see what kind of help is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance might be available.
Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Gateway AK area, make certain that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Gateway Physical Therapist School
Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is an important initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist program bear in mind that a number of variables will guide you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak 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 following our list of additional 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 fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gateway Alaska.