How to Select the Right Physical Therapy Training Program Near Juneau Alaska
Obtaining a physical therapy degree near Juneau AK is an important first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to make sure they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we discuss 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 is a Physical Therapist?
Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Juneau AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:
- Arthritis or Osteoporosis
- Car or motor cycle accidents
- Head injuries
- Heart attacks
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Burn injuries
- Hip Replacement
- Cerebral Palsy
Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Juneau AK health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, 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. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.
Physical Therapist Degrees Offered
There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become 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 brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Juneau AK area:
- Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the course of study.
- Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy training to prep students to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
- Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely 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 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 prior to the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.
Physical Therapy Online Programs
Although not as prevalent as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Juneau AK home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.
What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs
At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your initial questions, like the type of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Juneau AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to look into other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Moreover, you want to make certain that you enroll in the school that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you must ask the physical therapy colleges you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making a final selection.
Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited? Find out if the colleges 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 program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. Besides ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.
What is the Program's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT program's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Juneau AK physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your school options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.
What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may indicate that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Juneau AK area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or even outstanding. It also verifies that the college has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or employment upon graduation.
Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both excellent training and a curriculum that satisfies 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 therapist college. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.
Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have associations with Juneau AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional connections in the Juneau health care community and help with job placement once licensed.
What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.
Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they select will need to be within driving distance of their Juneau AK home. Those who have opted to attend classes online obviously 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 keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.
Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is obtainable. They at least should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial aid might be available.
Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you decide to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Juneau AK area, make sure that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of illness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Juneau Physical Therapist School
Selecting the best physical therapist program is an important first decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your final decision. You might want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach 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 options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Juneau Alaska.