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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Lakes Alaska

Lakes Alaska physical therapist working with female patient holding exercise ballReceiving a physical therapist degree near Lakes AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals 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 must get the necessary education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate those you are looking at to make certain they will deliver a superior education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated along with 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 is a Physical Therapist?

Lakes Alaska DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Lakes AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes 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 patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they create a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Lakes AK medical specialists, including chiropractors, physicians, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Lakes Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available 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 prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Lakes AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as 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 provided by junior or community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is typically a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to ready candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to practicing as a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to complete and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 total investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable 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 present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Colleges

Lakes Alaska female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. However, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Lakes AK home. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

Topics to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you most likely have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist 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 numerous PT schools within the Lakes AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to research other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you need to make certain that you choose the school that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are considering have earned accreditation from a regional or a national 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 earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's important that the school and program you pick have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact a few Lakes AK physical therapy centers or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any advice about your program selections. It may also be a good idea to check with 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 relevant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are considering. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being hired with the assistance of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Lakes AK area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you enroll in furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy programs you are reviewing have relationships with Lakes AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships a great means to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional connections in the Lakes healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of student that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes enable more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy 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 determination. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they decide on will need to be within travelling distance of their Lakes AK residence. Those who have opted to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. One thing to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have 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 Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools supply some form of financial aid to their potential students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial assistance department and see what type of assistance is available. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy program you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Lakes AK area, make certain 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 enroll in. Also, ask what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Lakes Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Lakes Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapy college is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different schools to view their facilities and talk to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Lakes Alaska.


 

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