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How to Pick the Right Physical Therapist School Near Sterling Alaska

Sterling Alaska physical therapist working with woman using exercise ballGetting a physical therapy degree near Sterling AK is an essential first step to beginning a fulfilling career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury regain mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must obtain the necessary training and education. A PT must also be licensed in all states, many mandating that the licensee earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are thinking about to ensure they will furnish a quality education and comply with your state's licensing standards. What you should not do is select a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the most affordable tuition. There are other important qualifications that must be considered in addition to location and cost. 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Sterling Alaska DPT assisting woman to walk

Physical therapists practice in diverse locations, such as Sterling AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As previously mentioned, physical therapists help patients 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 reduce or eliminate any pain. They also endeavor to prevent any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability requiring physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Arthritis or Osteoporosis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Head injuries
  • Heart attacks
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Sterling AK medical specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also manage several physical therapy assistants who work for them in the diagnosis and treatment of their patients. One thing to keep in mind for anyone thinking about going into the physical therapy profession, it is rather 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

Sterling Alaska physical therapist working with patient in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees available for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these choices, the only degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either preparing students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short summaries of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Sterling AK area:

  • Associate Degrees train students to be physical therapy assistants, or can be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have obtained a high school diploma or equivalent to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community or junior colleges, and require 2 years for completion. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapist education to ready candidates to move up to the doctoral level. While they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an essential first step to becoming a PT. As with most bachelor's degrees, they normally take 4 years to complete and commonly include an internship program of at least 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement 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 3 years to complete, making the overall investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical or practical training is an important component in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Consequently the completion of an internship is required, not solely for graduation but in a number of 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 attainable in the United States. Some licensed physical therapists holding a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing requirement for a doctorate was instituted.

Physical Therapy Colleges Online

Sterling Alaska female student taking physical therapist classes onlineAlthough not as common as the on-campus alternatives, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees offered, more so at the graduate level. Due to 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 part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sterling AK residence. Online programs are not only partially more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition can be significantly lower than comparable on-campus alternatives, and costs for commuting are reduced. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These advantages can make the online option the ideal choice for those students that are motivated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapy Programs

At this point you probably have come to decision regarding some of your initial queries, such as the kind of physical therapist degree you would like to attain, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much you can afford to invest in your education. But since there are so many PT colleges within the Sterling AK area and throughout Alaska, you'll have to look into other qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college choices. Also, you need to be sure that you enroll in the college that is ideal 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 potential schools these questions before making an ultimate selection.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Ask if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national agency. As earlier 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 school, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapy program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Also, make sure that the accreditation is through a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with guaranteeing that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be required for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? Along with accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. There are a number of ways you can look into a PT program's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews also. Get in touch with a few Sterling AK physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may be interested in working for and ask if they can offer any recommendations about your program options. It might also be a good idea to contact the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to find out if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the Program's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of important statistics that you should know about each of the physical therapy schools you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students left because of displeasure with the program, the instructors, or both. Once the students have graduated, what percentage of them are being hired with the help of the school's job placement program, particularly in the Sterling AK area? If a program has a high job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care field is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the college has a large network of contacts to assist students get internships or jobs upon graduation.

Does the School Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's important that the program you choose provides both exceptional training and a curriculum that supports 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) along with a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. While licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, some states require a minimum amount of clinical hours be completed as well as passing scores on additional tests.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Ask if the physical therapy schools you are evaluating have partnerships with Sterling AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Not only are internships an excellent way to get hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they may help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Sterling health care community and help with job placement after licensing.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the sort of student that likes to sit far in the rear of class or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Small classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are researching what the typical teacher to student ratio is for their classes. If practical you may want to monitor one or more classes before making your final determination. This will also give you an opportunity to converse with some of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program also.

Where is the School Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapy school they choose will need to be within commuting distance of their Sterling AK home. Those 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 consider 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 often charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges often charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Help Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their potential students. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid office and find out what kind of help is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in obtaining a student loan or any scholarships you might qualify for. Some physical therapy schools provide scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a program because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance might be available.

Can the Program Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you must confirm that the physical therapist program you ultimately choose can provide the class schedule you need. This is especially important if you decide to continue working while attending classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sterling AK area, make certain that they are offered. 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 have to carry. Also, find out what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sterling Online Physical Therapist Programs

Enroll in the Best Sterling Physical Therapist School

Choosing the best physical therapist school is a necessary first decision you have to make to begin a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have covered in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and college you choose should both have excellent reputations and be accredited. But there are other relevant questions that you need to ask concerning your school of choice as well. As you commence your search for a physical therapist college keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you toward your ultimate decision. You might decide to go to each of the schools to view their facilities and speak with active 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 following 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 education and training, you can fulfill your dream to become a licensed physical therapist in Sterling Alaska.


 

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