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

Palmer Alaska physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Palmer AK is an essential first step to beginning a rewarding career in the healthcare field. Physical therapists (PT) help people who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they can practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must receive the proper education and training. A PT must also become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research the ones you are looking at to make certain they will furnish a superior education and meet your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is choose a college just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be evaluated besides cost and location. But before we talk about 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 female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying locations, such as Palmer AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As previously stated, physical therapists help patients that are suffering from a lack of mobility and often pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Sports injuries
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists practice in close affiliation with other Palmer AK medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also supervise one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists often lift patients and heavy equipment, and stand, crouch and kneel for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degrees Available

Palmer Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options available for students to enroll in at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the single degree that is offered that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training 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 offered to prospective students in the Palmer AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to be physical therapy assistants, or can 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 programs are typically offered by community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is typically a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an essential initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete 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). After earning the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to complete, making the overall investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical training is an essential component in addition to the considerable classroom and lab instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in several states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Schools Online

Palmer Alaska female student taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on nature of the training, clinical lab work and internships are combined with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live near the school campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online segment of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Palmer AK residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more economical. Tuition may be significantly lower than comparable on campus options, and expenditures for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Schools

At this point you most likely have made a decision concerning several of your initial questions, including the kind of physical therapist degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Palmer AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school choices. Furthermore, you need to be sure that you select the program that is ideal for you. That's the reason we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the competing colleges these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have received accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously mentioned, if you are pursuing a doctorate the program must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you choose an online program, it can also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapist program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing 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 Program's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have exceptional reputations within the physical therapist community. There are multiple ways you can investigate a PT college'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 agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with some Palmer AK physical therapist centers or other healthcare facilities that you might have an interest in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your school options. It may also be prudent to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Percentage? There are a two important statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may suggest that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Palmer AK area? If a college has a high job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the healthcare community is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the college has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you choose furnishes both superior training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing criteria 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements vary state by state for PT and PTA graduates, a number of states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

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

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit way in the back of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you a chance to speak with some of the students and instructors to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For many students, the physical therapy college they select will need to be within travelling distance of their Palmer AK home. Those who have decided to attend online classes obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of concern. Something to bear in mind is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or even 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 often charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? The majority of DPT schools offer some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are examining have a financial aid office and see what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may qualify for. A number of physical therapy colleges offer scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapy program you finally select can offer the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you choose to continue working while attending classes. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Palmer AK area, confirm that they are available. 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 carry. Also, learn what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Palmer Physical Therapy Schools

Choose the Best Palmer Physical Therapist School

Deciding on the ideal physical therapy college is an important initial decision you must make to launch a fulfilling career in the medical field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you select should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other relevant questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that many factors will guide you toward your ultimate decision. You might want to visit each of the schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this school help me accomplish my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the best selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Palmer Alaska.


 

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