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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapy Program Near Juneau Alaska

Juneau Alaska physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Juneau AK is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the necessary training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are looking at to make sure they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered along with 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 the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Juneau Alaska DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse settings, such as Juneau AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. 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 patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also strive to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Juneau AK medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Juneau Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Juneau AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and usually include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated 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 finish, making the overall commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

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

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Juneau Alaska female student taking physical therapist courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, 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 nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Juneau AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat less than comparable on-campus options, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT colleges within the Juneau AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you need to make certain that you select the college that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you select an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. 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 can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Juneau AK physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your school options. It might also be prudent 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 couple of important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Juneau AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a wide network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

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

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Juneau AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent manner to get 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 establish professional relationships in the Juneau healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that likes to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are researching what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak 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 number of students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Juneau AK residence. Students who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Most DPT schools provide some form of financial support to their prospective students. Inquire if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance office and see what type of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Juneau AK area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Juneau Online Physical Therapy Degrees

Enroll in the Right Juneau Physical Therapist School

Picking the right physical therapy program is an important first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other critical questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist program keep in mind that a number of factors will lead you to your final decision. You may want to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak with active 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 right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Juneau Alaska.


 

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