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How to Enroll In the Right Physical Therapist Program Near Sterling Alaska

Sterling Alaska physical therapist working with female patient using exercise ballObtaining a physical therapist degree near Sterling AK is a critical first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help patients who have been disabled as a result of illness or injury gain back function and mobility. But before they can practice and work with the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper training and education. A PT must additionally be licensed in every state, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's necessary to research those you are considering to make certain they will provide a quality education and satisfy your state's licensing criteria. What you do not want to do is enroll in a school simply because it happens to be the nearest to your home or it has the lowest tuition. There are other relevant qualifications that must be evaluated along with cost and location. But before we talk about what those qualifications are and what questions you should ask, we'll cover what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What is a Physical Therapist's Job Description?

Sterling Alaska physical therapist assisting female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Sterling AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all share in common is that they have the equipment for diagnosing and rehabilitating patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and often pain caused by illness or injury. After diagnosing a patient, they design a course of treatment to resolve the mobility issues and lessen or eradicate any pain. They also strive to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are numerous, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Car or motor cycle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Fire injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Multiple Sclerosis

Licensed physical therapists work in close association with other Sterling AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They may also supervise several physical therapy assistants who work under them assisting with diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering entering the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift patients and heavy equipment, and kneel, crouch and stand for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapy Degree Options

Sterling Alaska physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degrees offered for students to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the single degree that is offered 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 preparing them to progress to the doctoral level. Following are short descriptions of degree levels 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. Applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are usually provided by community or junior colleges, and take about two years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is usually a component of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are developed as pre-physical therapy training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not required to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally take four years to finish and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are a requirement if you want to become a licensed practicing 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 3 years to complete, making the total investment of time 7 years in most cases. Clinical training is an intregal element along with the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in some states for licensing as well.

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

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Sterling Alaska woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are a number of accredited online physical therapist degrees available, even more at the graduate level. Due to the hands-on structure of the training, internships and clinical lab work are combined with the online classes. This requires that the student live near the school campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. However, the online portion of the curriculum may be accessed within the convenience and comfort of the student's Sterling AK home. Online schools are not only to some extent more accessible, but in many cases more affordable. Tuition may be significantly less than comparable on-campus options, and expenditures for commuting are minimized. And many of the online schools are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits can make the online option the best choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

What to Ask Physical Therapist Programs

At this point you undoubtedly have made a decision concerning several of your initial queries, including the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to invest in your education. But because there are numerous PT colleges within the Sterling AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to research other qualifications also so as to further narrow your list of school options. Furthermore, you want to be sure that you pick the program that is best for you. That's the reason we have put together a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapy schools you are considering. Ask all of the potential schools these questions before making a final decision.

Is the Physical Therapist College Accredited?  Find out if the colleges you are reviewing have received accreditation from a regional or a national 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 choose an online program, it may also earn 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 acknowledged accrediting agency. Along with guaranteeing that you receive a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the Program's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you choose have exceptional reputations within the physical therapy community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT college's reputation, starting with requesting references from employers that they place their graduates with. You can also search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Contact a few Sterling AK physical therapist clinics or other health care facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any recommendations about your program options. It might 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 couple of important statistics that you need to find out about all of the physical therapy programs you are looking at. First is their graduation rate. A lower rate may mean that students dropped out because of dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. After 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 school has a higher job placement rate, it suggests that its reputation within the medical care field is good or perhaps outstanding. It also verifies that the school has a broad network of contacts to assist students get internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that satisfies the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be practicing. In each state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) as well as a degree from an accredited physical therapy college. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PT and PTA graduates, many states require a minimum number of clinical hours be performed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internships Sponsored? Find out if the physical therapy programs you are evaluating have relationships with Sterling AK hospitals or clinics for internship programs. Internships are not only a great way to obtain hands on experience in a clinical setting, they are additionally a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As a supplemental benefit, they can help graduates and students form professional relationships in the Sterling healthcare community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

How Large are the Classes ? Unless you are the kind of person that prefers to sit way in the rear of the classroom or hide in the crowd, you will likely want a small class size. Smaller classes allow for more individual participation and one-on-one instruction. Ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing what the typical teacher to student 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 converse with a few of the students and instructors to get their opinions regarding the physical therapy program as well.

Where is the College Located? For a lot of students, the physical therapist school they pick will have to be within commuting distance of their Sterling AK home. Individuals who have opted to attend classes online obviously will not have to concern themselves with the location of the campus. However, the availability of local internships will be of importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a school that is out of state or even out of your local area, you may need 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 live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial support to their potential students. Inquire if the schools you are looking at have a financial assistance department and find out what kind of assistance is offered. At a minimum they should help in getting a student loan or any scholarships you may be eligible for. A number of physical therapist schools offer scholarships, while others provide work programs. So before eliminating a school because the tuition is too expensive, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And finally you need to verify that the physical therapy college you finally pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you opt to continue working while you attend classes. If you must schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sterling AK area, make certain that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, find out if that is an alternative and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you may miss because of illness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sterling Online Physical Therapist Schools

Enroll in the Best Sterling Physical Therapy School

Picking the ideal physical therapist program is a necessary initial decision you have to make to launch a rewarding career in the healthcare profession. As we have discussed in this article, the PT or DPT degree program and school you decide on should both have excellent reputations and accreditation. But there are other important questions that you should ask regarding your school of choice also. As you begin your search for a physical therapy school keep in mind that many factors will lead you to your final decision. You might decide to go to each of the campuses to view their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this critical question: will this program help me reach my goal of becoming a licensed practicing physical therapist? By following our list of additional questions, you will be able to narrow down the field so you can make the appropriate selection. And with the necessary training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Sterling Alaska.


 

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