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How to Choose the Right Physical Therapy School Near Sterling Alaska

Sterling Alaska physical therapist working with woman holding exercise ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Sterling AK is an important first step to launching a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been incapacitated as a result of illness or injury gain back mobility and function. But before they may legally practice and provide treatment for the rehabilitation of patients, they must acquire the proper education and training. A PT must additionally become licensed in all states, a large number mandating that the licensee hold a physical therapy degree from an accredited college. So before enrolling in a physical therapy school, it's important to investigate the ones you are thinking about to make certain they will supply a superior education and meet your state's licensing requirements. What you should not do is choose a school just because it happens to be the closest to your residence or it has cheapest tuition. There are other significant qualifications that need to be considered besides cost and location. But before we discuss what those qualifications are and the questions you should be asking, we'll address what a physical therapist does and what the educational options are.

What Do Physical Therapists Do?

Sterling Alaska physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists work in varying settings, such as Sterling AK private practices, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and sports facilities. What the facilities all share in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier stated, physical therapists help individuals that are experiencing a lack of mobility and frequently pain caused by injury or illness. After patient diagnosis, they develop a program of treatment to resolve the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also strive to prevent any progression of the disability. Though the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

  • Osteoporosis and Arthritis
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Strokes
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Burn injuries
  • Knee Replacement
  • Sciatica
  • Cerebral Palsy

Licensed physical therapists work in close affiliation with other Sterling AK health specialists, including doctors, chiropractors, dentists and nurses. They may also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work for them in diagnosing and treating their patients. Something to take note of for anyone considering going into the physical therapy profession, 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 Therapist Degrees Offered

Sterling Alaska DPT working with man in pool

There are three physical therapy degrees offered for individuals to enroll in at the graduate and undergraduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is available that qualifies the graduate to become a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees focus on either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or readying them to progress to the doctoral level. Below are short descriptions of degree levels that are offered to prospective students in the Sterling AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to become physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Candidates must have a high school diploma or equivalent to be accepted for enrollment. The degrees are most often provided by community colleges, and take about 2 years to complete. Clinical training, which may be in the form of an internship is normally part of the program.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prep candidates to advance to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be qualified for the doctoral program, they are an important first step to becoming a PT. Similar to most bachelor's degrees, they generally require 4 years to finish 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 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 finish, making the total commitment seven years in the majority of cases. Clinical training is an important element in addition to the considerable lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the fulfillment of an internship is mandated, not only for graduation but in a number of states for licensing as well.

The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) has taken the place of the Master's of Physical Therapy (MPT), which has been phased out and is no longer available in the USA. A number of licensed physical therapists holding a master's or even a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in before the present licensing mandate for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Degrees

Sterling Alaska woman taking physical therapy classes onlineAlthough not as prevalent as the on-campus options, there are many accredited online physical therapy degrees available, more so at the graduate level. Because of 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 college campus or nearby an available internship. Fortunately, the online part of the course of study can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Sterling AK home. Online schools are not only partially more accessible, but in many instances more affordable. Tuition might be significantly less than similar on campus options, and expenses for commuting are minimized. And a number of the online programs are accredited by the CAPTE, ensuring a quality education. These benefits may make the online alternative the ideal choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapist Schools

By now you undoubtedly have made a decision regarding some of your preliminary questions, like the kind of physical therapist degree you intend to earn, where you prefer to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But since there are so many PT schools within the Sterling AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to research additional qualifications as well in order to further narrow your list of college options. Also, you want to make sure that you pick the school that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of essential questions that you must ask the physical therapy programs you are thinking about. Ask all of the potential colleges these questions prior to making a final selection.

Is the Physical Therapy School Accredited?  Ask if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As earlier stated, 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 program, it may also earn accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's important that both the physical therapist program and school you select are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, verify that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education acknowledged accrediting organization. Along with ensuring that you obtain a quality education, accreditation may be mandated for state licensing as well as for securing student loans or financial assistance.

What is the College's Reputation? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the college and program you select have excellent reputations within the physical therapist profession. 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 search for online reviews and rating services and ask the accrediting agencies for their reviews also. Get in touch with several Sterling AK physical therapist clinics or other healthcare facilities that you might be interested in working for and ask if they can provide any insight about your college selections. 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 colleges.

What is the School's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of relevant statistics that you should find out about each of the physical therapist programs you are reviewing. One is their graduation rate. A lower rate might suggest that students dropped out because of displeasure with the program, the teachers, or both. After the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the support of the college'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 community is good or perhaps exceptional. It also verifies that the program has a large network of contacts to help students gain internships or jobs after graduation.

Does the Program Support Licensing Requirements? It's essential that the school you choose provides both exceptional training and a course of study that supports the licensing requirements for Alaska or the state where you will be working. In every state a passing score is required on the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) in addition to a degree from an accredited physical therapist program. Although licensing requirements fluctuate state by state for PTA and PT graduates, a number of states require a minimum number of clinical hours be completed and passing scores on supplemental exams.

Are Internship Programs Offered? Find out if the physical therapist programs you are interested in have associations with Sterling AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a great manner to obtain practical training in a clinical environment, they are also a requirement for the majority of PT programs and state licensing. As an ancillary benefit, they can help graduates and students establish professional relationships in the Sterling medical community and assist with obtaining employment once licensed.

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

Where is the Program Located? For a number of students, the physical therapist college they decide on will have to be within travelling distance of their Sterling AK home. Individuals who have decided to attend classes online naturally 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 decide to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you might have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges generally 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 Support Offered? The majority of DPT colleges supply some form of financial assistance to their prospective students. Inquire if the colleges you are looking at have a financial aid department and find out what type of assistance is obtainable. At a minimum they should help in securing a student loan or any grants you might qualify for. A number of physical therapy 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 might be available.

Can the College Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to verify that the physical therapist college you ultimately pick can furnish the class schedule you need. This is especially essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Sterling AK area, check that they are offered. If you can only attend part-time, check if that is an alternative and how many courses or credit hours you would have to carry. Also, ask what the procedure is for making up any classes that you might miss due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Sterling Online Physical Therapist Majors

Choose the Best Sterling Physical Therapist School

Choosing the right physical therapist school is an important first decision you must make to launch a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you choose should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are other critical questions that you should ask pertaining to your school of choice as well. As you start your search for a physical therapist school keep in mind that numerous variables will lead you to your ultimate decision. You may want to go to different schools to see their facilities and speak with current DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this program help me accomplish 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 right choice. And with the proper training and education, you can accomplish your dream of becoming a practicing physical therapist in Sterling Alaska.


 

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