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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy School Near Kenai Alaska

Kenai Alaska physical therapist working with woman holding balance ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Kenai AK is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper education and training. A PT must also be licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to make sure they will furnish a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest 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 address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Kenai Alaska DPT helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Kenai AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Kenai AK medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Kenai Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Kenai AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically take 4 years to complete and often include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated if you want to become a practicing licensed 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 3 years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some 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 offered 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 existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Programs Online

Kenai Alaska female student taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the curriculum can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Kenai AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are reduced. And many 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.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial queries, including the kind of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Kenai AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to explore other qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you need to make sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing schools these questions before making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional organization. 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 choose an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Kenai AK physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your college options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, 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 Kenai AK area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps excellent. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Provided? Inquire if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have partnerships with Kenai AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific manner 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 assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Kenai health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the back of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classes. 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 talk with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Kenai AK residence. Students 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. Something to consider is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps 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 frequently charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Most DPT colleges supply some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department and find out what kind of help is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist school you finally pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Kenai AK area, confirm that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Kenai Online Physical Therapist Colleges

Choose the Right Kenai Physical Therapy School

Selecting the ideal physical therapist school is an important first decision you have to make to start a rewarding career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you need to ask concerning your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that numerous factors will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different campuses to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me reach 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 field so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Kenai Alaska.


 

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