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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist College Near Palmer Alaska

Palmer Alaska physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapy degree near Palmer AK is a critical first step to launching a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of injury or illness gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number 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 research those you are thinking about to make certain they will furnish a quality education and satisfy 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 lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we cover what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Palmer Alaska physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in a variety of settings, including Palmer AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help individuals 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 resolve 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 abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Palmer AK medical professionals, including chiropractors, physicians, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to take note of for anyone thinking about entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for prolonged periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees

Palmer Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapist degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees emphasize either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Palmer AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by junior or community colleges, and take about two years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist education to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to finish and usually include 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 three years to finish, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not solely 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 phased out and is no longer available in the United States. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Programs Online

Palmer Alaska female student taking physical therapy courses onlineAlthough not as common as the on campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapist programs available, more so 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 necessitates that the student live near the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online segment of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Palmer AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more economical. Tuition may be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These benefits can make the online alternative the right choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

By now you probably have made a decision concerning some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But considering there are numerous PT colleges within the Palmer AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to explore additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college choices. Moreover, you need to make sure that you select the school that is right for you. That's why we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy colleges you are considering. Ask all of the competing schools these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are reviewing have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously stated, 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 may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you enroll in are accredited, not simply the school. Also, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you obtain an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT program's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You may also check online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews as well. Call some Palmer AK physical therapy clinics or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any insight about your school options. 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 schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about all of the physical therapist programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may 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 assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Palmer AK area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the medical care community is good or even excellent. It also verifies that the college has a broad network of contacts to assist students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum 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 therapy program. While licensing requirements differ state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internships Offered? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are assessing have associations with Palmer AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to receive practical experience in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help students and graduates develop professional relationships in the Palmer health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will probably prefer a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program also.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they pick will need to be within travelling distance of their Palmer AK residence. Students who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to trouble themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a program that is out of state or even out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Ask if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance office and see what type of help is available. At a minimum they should help in acquiring a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial assistance might be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist college you finally select can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend school. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Palmer AK area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Palmer Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Best Palmer Physical Therapist School

Picking the best physical therapy school is a necessary first decision you need to make to begin a rewarding career in the health care field. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. However there are other critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that numerous factors will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this college help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the field so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Palmer Alaska.


 

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