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

Lakes Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Lakes AK is an important first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated due to illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before choosing a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate those you are thinking about to make certain they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is select a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Lakes Alaska DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, including Lakes AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously touched on, physical therapists help individuals that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they design a course of treatment to address the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. While the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Lakes AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone considering entering 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 prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Lakes Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees available for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate 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 focus on either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are brief descriptions of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Lakes 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 obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically made available by community colleges, and require two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically part of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to practicing as a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the overall investment of time seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical or practical training is an important element along with the substantial classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only 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 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 before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Colleges

Lakes Alaska female student taking physical therapist classes onlineWhile not as common as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are integrated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. However, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Lakes AK residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition might be somewhat lower than comparable on campus options, and expenditures 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 disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are so many PT schools within the Lakes AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Besides guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call a few Lakes AK physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program options. It may also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate 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 help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Lakes AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the school has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you select provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria 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 therapist college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Inquire if the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing have associations with Lakes AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a terrific means to get 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 may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Lakes healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are considering what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with several of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist school they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Lakes AK residence. Individuals who have chosen to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a school that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges commonly charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Aid Provided? Most DPT schools offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapist colleges provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Lakes AK area, confirm 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 need to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Lakes Physical Therapist Degrees

Enroll in the Right Lakes Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you need to make to start a fulfilling career in the healthcare profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you decide on should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. However there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapy school bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to go to different colleges to see their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school 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 accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Lakes Alaska.


 

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