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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy College Near Sterling Alaska

Sterling Alaska physical therapist working with woman using balance ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Sterling AK is an essential first step to launching a rewarding career in the medical care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they need to get the appropriate training and education. A PT must additionally become licensed in every state, a large number requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's necessary to investigate those you are considering to make sure they will supply a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is choose a school simply because it happens to be the closest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that need to be evaluated in addition to cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and the options for education.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Sterling Alaska physical therapist assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, including Sterling 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 earlier stated, physical therapists help patients that are experiencing a lack of mobility and in many cases pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they create a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and lessen or eliminate any pain. They also try to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Sports injuries
  • Fire injuries
  • Hip Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Sterling AK medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They can also oversee one or more physical therapy assistants who work under them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. Something to keep in mind for anyone considering getting into 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 Therapy Degrees

Sterling Alaska DPT working with patient in pool

There are three physical therapy degree options available for students to pursue at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is attainable 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 preparing them to advance to the doctoral level. Below are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Sterling 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 most often offered by junior or community colleges, and require 2 years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally a portion of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are created as pre-physical therapy education to prep students to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to practicing as a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are mandated in order to become a licensed practicing physical therapist. The degree program also must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). In addition to the bachelor's degree, the doctoral takes 3 years to complete, making the overall commitment 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not just for graduation but in a number of states for licensing also.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has replaced the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been eliminated and is no longer available in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists having a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the current licensing mandate for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Degrees Online

Sterling Alaska woman taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of the hands-on structure of the training, clinical lab work and internships are integrated with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or nearby a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online portion of the course of study may be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sterling AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be somewhat lower than similar on-campus alternatives, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And many of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, guaranteeing a quality education. These advantages may make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are disciplined enough to learn at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision regarding several of your preliminary queries, including the kind 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 since there are numerous PT colleges within the Sterling AK area and across Alaska, you'll need to look into other qualifications also so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you need to make sure that you choose the program that is right for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of essential questions that you need to ask the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. Ask each of the competing colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapist Program Accredited?  Find out if the programs you are looking at have earned accreditation from a regional or a national organization. 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 select an online school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's essential that both the physical therapy program and school you choose are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Standing? Along with accreditation, it's imperative that the college and program you pick have outstanding reputations within the physical therapy profession. There are several ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with asking for references from employers that they refer their students to. You may also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Call several Sterling AK physical therapy centers or other medical care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any insight about your program selections. It might also be prudent to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been filed against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Percentage? There are a couple of useful statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist colleges you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might mean that students left because of dissatisfaction with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Sterling AK area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care community is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to help students obtain internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the College Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the college you select provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In every state a passing score is needed on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be performed as well as passing scores on supplemental tests.

Are Internship Programs Sponsored? Ask if the physical therapist colleges you are evaluating have partnerships with Sterling AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only an excellent way to receive practical training in a clinical environment, they are additionally a requirement for most PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they may help students and graduates form professional relationships in the Sterling healthcare community and help with obtaining employment after licensing.

What Size are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of class or hide in the crowd, you will undoubtedly prefer a smaller class size. Small classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapy colleges you are researching what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to sit in on one or more classes before making your final decision. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with a few of the instructors and students to get their opinions regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy college they choose will need to be within travelling distance of their Sterling AK home. Those who have decided to attend online classes naturally will not have to worry themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of area internships will be of concern. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a program that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may need to pay a higher tuition. State colleges usually 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 Aid Offered? Most DPT schools supply some type of financial assistance to their potential students. Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have a financial aid office and see what type of assistance is offered. They at least should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is beyond your budget, find out what financial aid may be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And last you must confirm that the physical therapist college you finally choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sterling AK area, check that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, verify if that is an option and how many courses or credit hours you would need to enroll in. 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 Sterling Physical Therapist Degrees

Choose the Right Sterling Physical Therapy School

Deciding on the right physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you must make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare field. As we have addressed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and college you enroll in should both have exceptional reputations and be accredited. But there are additional critical questions that you need to ask regarding your school of choice as well. As you begin your search for a physical therapy college keep in mind that a number of factors will guide you toward your final decision. You may want to go to each of the colleges to view their facilities and talk with active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By adhering to our list of additional questions, you will have the ability to narrow down the options so you can make the best choice. And with the necessary training and education, you can achieve your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Sterling Alaska.


 

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