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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapy Course Near Sitka Alaska

Sitka Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballEarning a physical therapist degree near Sitka AK is a critical first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they need to acquire the proper training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before selecting a physical therapy school, it's essential to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will deliver a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other significant qualifications that must be considered along with location and cost. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Sitka Alaska physical therapist helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, including Sitka 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 mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to illness or injury. After patient diagnosis, they develop a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also try to stop any advancement of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Sitka AK medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is rather physically demanding. Physical therapists routinely lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Offered

Sitka Alaska DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for individuals to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these alternatives, the one 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 readying them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief descriptions of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Sitka AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are most often provided by community colleges, and take about two years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part 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 a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important initial step to practicing as a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they generally take four years to complete and usually incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a practicing licensed physical therapist. The degree program must also be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes three years to finish, making the total investment of time seven years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an intregal component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is required, not only for graduation but in several 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 offered in the United States. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Sitka Alaska female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on nature of the training, internships and clinical lab work are incorporated with the online classes. This requires that the student live close to the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sitka AK residence. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition can be significantly less than similar on campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, assuring a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your initial questions, like the kind of physical therapist 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 so many PT schools within the Sitka AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into additional qualifications as well in order to further reduce your list of college options. Furthermore, you want to make certain that you pick the college that is best for you. That's the reason we have collected a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapy College Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are looking at 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 select an online college, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not simply the school. Also, check that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be required for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the School's Ranking? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can investigate a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Sitka AK physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can give you any advice about your school selections. It may also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the colleges.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you need to know about each of the physical therapist colleges you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may mean that students dropped out due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once 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 Sitka AK area? If a college has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also affirms that the program has a wide network of contacts to assist students obtain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements 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) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy program. Although licensing requirements vary state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on additional exams.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have relationships with Sitka AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent means to get practical experience in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a secondary benefit, they can assist students and graduates form professional relationships in the Sitka health care community and assist with job placement after licensing.

How Big are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of person that likes to sit way in the back of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a small class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to sit in on 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 therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they choose will have to be within driving distance of their Sitka AK residence. Students who have decided 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. One thing to keep in mind is that if you decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition for those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT schools provide some form of financial aid to their prospective students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, ask what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must verify that the physical therapist college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while you attend school. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Sitka AK area, check that they are offered. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to carry. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss because of illness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Sitka Physical Therapist Colleges

Enroll in the Right Sitka Physical Therapy School

Choosing the right physical therapist college is an important first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have addressed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that a number of variables will lead you to your final decision. You may decide to go to each of the campuses to see their facilities and talk with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me achieve my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of supplemental questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Sitka Alaska.


 

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