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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapist College Near Nikiski Alaska

Nikiski Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballReceiving a physical therapy degree near Nikiski AK is an important first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the healthcare industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated due to injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, many mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to research those you are looking at to make sure they will provide a quality education and meet your state's licensing standards. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college just because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides location and cost. But before we cover what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Nikiski Alaska physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Nikiski AK hospitals, health clinics, 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 people that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any advancement of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Nikiski AK medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Nikiski Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degree levels that are available to prospective students in the Nikiski AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are typically made available by community colleges, and take about 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare students to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral initial step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they generally take 4 years to finish and commonly incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required in order to become a licensed practicing 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an essential element along with the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is required, not just 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 eliminated and is no longer available in the USA. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Schools Online

Nikiski Alaska female student taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Nikiski AK residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on-campus options, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

At this point you probably have made a decision concerning some of your preliminary queries, such as the type of physical therapy degree you want to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT schools within the Nikiski AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll need to research additional qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you choose the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of important questions that you need to ask the physical therapist schools you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier mentioned, 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Standing? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are multiple ways you can research a PT program'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 organizations for their reviews as well. Contact some Nikiski AK physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a two relevant statistics that you need to know about all of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate might indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the help of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Nikiski AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the School Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you select furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements 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 college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Find out if the physical therapist schools you are reviewing have associations with Nikiski AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can help students and graduates establish professional relationships in the Nikiski medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that likes to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to speak with some of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within commuting distance of their Nikiski AK home. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to keep in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges normally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Provided? The majority of DPT colleges provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and see what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately select can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule night or weekend classes in the Nikiski AK area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss due to illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Nikiski Online Physical Therapy Courses

Choose the Best Nikiski Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapist college is an important initial decision you need to make to start a rewarding career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. But there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school bear in mind that many factors will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to visit different schools to view their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach 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 field so you can make the appropriate choice. And with the necessary education and training, you can achieve your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Nikiski Alaska.


 

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