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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Meadow Lakes Alaska

Meadow Lakes Alaska physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Meadow Lakes AK is an important first step to starting a fulfilling career in the health care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to evaluate those you are considering to ensure they will provide a superior education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be evaluated along with 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?

Meadow Lakes Alaska DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of locations, such as Meadow Lakes AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they design a program of treatment to address the mobility issues and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Meadow Lakes AK medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into the physical therapy profession, it is quite 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 Therapist Degrees Offered

Meadow Lakes Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these choices, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become 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. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Meadow Lakes AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Candidates must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to progress to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. As with the majority of bachelor's degrees, they typically require four years to finish and often include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to finish, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element in addition to the extensive 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 taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer attainable in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapist Degrees Online

Meadow Lakes Alaska female student taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapist programs offered, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the college campus or in proximity of an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Meadow Lakes AK residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition can be somewhat lower than comparable on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

At this point you probably have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary queries, like the type of physical therapy degree you want to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are numerous PT colleges within the Meadow Lakes AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you pick the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are considering. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Find out if the schools 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 enroll in an online college, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the school and program you choose have outstanding reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are several ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting 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 also. Get in touch with a few Meadow Lakes AK physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school selections. It may also be prudent to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two important statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy programs you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate might mean that students left due to displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Meadow Lakes AK area? If a program has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also confirms that the college has a wide network of contacts to assist students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the college you enroll in provides both excellent training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapist college. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are assessing have partnerships with Meadow Lakes AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to receive practical training in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Meadow Lakes health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with a few of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they choose will need to be within driving distance of their Meadow Lakes AK home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online naturally will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges normally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges commonly charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what type of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a school because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial assistance may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly important if you choose to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Meadow Lakes AK area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would need to carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Meadow Lakes Online Physical Therapy Training

Enroll in the Best Meadow Lakes Physical Therapy School

Choosing the ideal physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you must make to start a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have exceptional reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you should ask concerning your college of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and speak to current 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 additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Meadow Lakes Alaska.


 

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