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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist College Near Kenai Alaska

Kenai Alaska physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Kenai AK is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been debilitated as a result of injury or illness gain back mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to investigate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered along with location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What is a Physical Therapist?

Kenai Alaska physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of settings, such as Kenai AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. 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 illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also try to prevent any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Kenai AK health professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Offered

Kenai Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Kenai AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are most often offered by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prepare candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an integral first step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish 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 also must 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 investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component along with the extensive classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

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 United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Colleges Online

Kenai Alaska female student taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs available, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Kenai AK home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. 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 benefits can make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have come to decision concerning a few of your initial questions, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Kenai AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll need to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you enroll in the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. Ask all of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are considering have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with several Kenai AK physical therapy clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your school selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may 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 college's job placement program, particularly in the Kenai AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the college you select furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have relationships with Kenai AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to obtain practical training in a clinical setting, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they may help graduates and students form professional connections in the Kenai healthcare community and assist with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit way in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will likely want a smaller class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classes. 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 a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within driving distance of their Kenai AK residence. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or even 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 commonly charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges supply some type of financial aid to their potential students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what kind of help is offered. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, find out what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Kenai AK area, confirm that they are available. If you can only attend part-time, verify if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Kenai Physical Therapist Colleges

Choose the Best Kenai Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the right physical therapist school is a necessary initial decision you must make to begin a gratifying career in the health care field. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are additional important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that many factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and talk to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Kenai Alaska.


 

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