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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Kenai Alaska

Kenai Alaska physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Kenai AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, 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 essential to research the ones you are considering to make sure they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be considered in addition to cost and location. 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 Do Physical Therapists Do?

Kenai Alaska physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, including Kenai 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 the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Kenai AK health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Kenai Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the single degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief explanations of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Kenai AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often made available by junior or community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a component of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist education to ready students to progress to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must 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 total commitment seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in some states for licensing also.

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

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Kenai Alaska woman taking physical therapy training onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional alternatives, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the program may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Kenai AK home. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be somewhat less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT schools within the Kenai AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll need to research other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you pick the college that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctoral degree the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist school and program you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Besides 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 College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Contact a few Kenai AK physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Kenai AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to help students get internships or employment upon graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Kenai AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great means to receive hands on training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Kenai health care community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to sit in on one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they decide on will have to be within commuting distance of their Kenai AK home. Individuals who have opted to attend online classes naturally will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally 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? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance office and find out what type of aid is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Kenai AK area, make sure 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 carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Kenai Physical Therapist Schools

Choose the Best Kenai Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. However there are additional important 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 many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to each of the schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the proper education and training, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Kenai Alaska.


 

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