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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Training Program Near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Gateway AK is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Gateway Alaska physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Gateway AK hospitals, health clinics, assisted living facilities, rehab centers 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 patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Gateway AK medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone thinking about going 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 Therapy Degrees Offered

Gateway Alaska physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the only 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Gateway AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community or junior colleges, and require two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required if you want 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 7 years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Programs

Gateway Alaska female student taking physical therapy classes onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Gateway AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of instances more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the best choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are numerous PT schools within the Gateway AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of school choices. Also, you want to be sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy Program Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are several ways you can investigate a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Call several Gateway AK physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any insight 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 colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Gateway AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you select provides both superior training and a course of study that supports 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary 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 additional tests.

Are Internships Provided? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Gateway AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Gateway medical community and help with job placement after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the Program Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist college they choose will have to be within commuting distance of their Gateway AK home. Those who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT colleges offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Gateway AK area, check 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 have to enroll in. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Gateway Online Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Best Gateway Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Gateway Alaska.


 

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