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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Lakes Alaska

Lakes Alaska physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Lakes AK is an essential first step to launching a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate the ones you are looking at to ensure they will furnish a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a college 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 evaluated besides location and cost. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Lakes Alaska physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Lakes AK hospitals, health clinics, 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 earlier mentioned, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. While the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close partnerships with other Lakes 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 bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy field, it is quite 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 Therapist Degrees Offered

Lakes Alaska DPT working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degrees available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become 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 short descriptions of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Lakes AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually made available by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a component of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require 4 years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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). After earning 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 component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in several states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer attainable in the USA. Some practicing physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Online Schools

Lakes Alaska female student taking physical therapist training onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees offered, even more 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 necessitates that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Lakes AK home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the best choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Subjects to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have come to decision concerning several of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Lakes AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to research additional qualifications also in order to further narrow your list of school options. Also, you want to be sure 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 must ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 select an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for securing student loans or financial aid.

What is the College's Standing? Along with 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 research a PT school's reputation, starting with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Contact several Lakes AK physical therapist centers or other health care facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two significant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are considering. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Lakes AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also confirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you choose furnishes both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports the licensing criteria for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PT and PTA graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have associations with Lakes AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive hands on experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Lakes health care community and help with job placement once licensed.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that likes to sit way in the back of class or hide in the crowd, you will likely prefer a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the average teacher to student ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Lakes AK home. Students who have opted 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. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges usually charge a higher tuition to those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Most DPT schools offer some type of financial assistance to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are considering have a financial assistance department and find out what type of aid is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you might be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is too expensive, ask what financial aid might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately pick can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly crucial if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Lakes AK area, make sure that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, learn what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Lakes Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Right Lakes Physical Therapy School

Choosing the best physical therapy college is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a gratifying career in the health care profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many variables will guide you to your final decision. You may want to go to different campuses to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Lakes Alaska.


 

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