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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Gateway Alaska

Gateway Alaska physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Gateway AK is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered besides location and cost. But before we talk about 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?

Gateway Alaska physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of 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 earlier touched on, physical therapists help people that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Gateway AK medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Gateway Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options available for individuals to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available 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 earned a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually offered by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prepare students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the extensive lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several 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 phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Gateway Alaska woman taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Gateway AK home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you probably have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Gateway AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. As earlier stated, 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Gateway AK physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might indicate that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Gateway AK area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the program has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are interested in have partnerships with Gateway AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Gateway health care community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapy college they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Gateway AK residence. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are considering have a financial aid office and find out what kind of aid is available. They at least should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapist 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 College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally pick can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Gateway AK area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Gateway Online Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Right Gateway Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the best physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your final decision. You might decide to visit each of the campuses to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this college help me realize my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Gateway Alaska.


 

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