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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist School Near Sitka Alaska

Sitka Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Sitka AK is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the medical care field. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated as a result of illness or injury regain function and mobility. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must get the appropriate training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many requiring that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school just because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has cheapest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be considered in addition to cost and location. 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 is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Sitka Alaska DPT helping woman to walk

Physical therapists work in a variety of locations, including Sitka AK private practices, hospitals, assisted living facilities, rehab centers and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier mentioned, physical therapists help people that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain due to injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they create a program of treatment to address the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists work in close partnerships with other Sitka AK medical professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage one or more physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and kneel, crouch and stand for long periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degree Options

Sitka Alaska DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options offered for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the only degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees concentrate on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degrees that are available to prospective students in the Sitka AK area:

  • Associate Degrees educate students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or can be the first step toward earning a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The programs are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. An internship or other form of clinical training is usually a portion of the curriculum.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapy training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be eligible for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to finish and usually include an internship program of at least 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 complete, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important component along with the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not solely 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. A number of licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapy Online Degrees

Sitka Alaska woman taking physical therapy courses onlineWhile not as common as the more traditional options, there are many accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are incorporated with the online classes. This necessitates that the student live close to the college campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Sitka AK residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more economical. Tuition may be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you most likely have come to decision regarding some of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you want to obtain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are so many PT colleges within the Sitka AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of school choices. Moreover, you need to make certain that you select the school that is ideal for you. That's why we have put together a list of critical questions that you need to ask the physical therapist programs you are thinking about. Ask each of the potential colleges these questions before making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier 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 choose an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy school and program you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, check that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. Besides guaranteeing that you receive an excellent education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are multiple ways you can look into a PT college's reputation, beginning with asking for 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 as well. Call a few Sitka AK physical therapist centers or other medical care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any advice 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 colleges.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a two useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapy schools you are reviewing. First is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students dropped out due to displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. After the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Sitka AK area? If a school has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even exceptional. It also verifies that the school has a wide network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's important that the school you enroll in provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Provided? Ask if the physical therapist schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Sitka AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific way to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may assist graduates and students develop professional connections in the Sitka medical community and assist with job placement once licensed.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will undoubtedly want a smaller class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are reviewing what the average student to teacher ratio is for their classrooms. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you an opportunity to talk with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the School Located? For many students, the physical therapy school they select will need to be within commuting distance of their Sitka AK residence. Individuals who have chosen 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 bear 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 might be required to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition for those students that don't reside within their districts.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? The majority of DPT schools provide some type of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of aid is available. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial aid may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must verify that the physical therapy school you ultimately choose can offer the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you choose to continue working while you attend classes. If you need to schedule night or weekend classes in the Sitka AK area, confirm that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, find out if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would need to enroll in. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Sitka Online Physical Therapy Schools

Enroll in the Right Sitka Physical Therapist School

Selecting the right physical therapy school is an important initial decision you need to make to launch a fulfilling career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you pick should both have outstanding reputations and accreditation. However there are additional relevant questions that you need to ask pertaining to your college of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that many variables will lead you toward your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and speak to current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me realize 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 right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream to become a practicing physical therapist in Sitka Alaska.


 

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