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How to Select the Right Physical Therapist Degree Program Near Tanaina Alaska

Tanaina Alaska physical therapist working with female patient holding balance ballGetting a physical therapist degree near Tanaina AK is an important first step to starting a rewarding career in the health care industry. Physical therapists (PT) help individuals who have been debilitated 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 need to acquire the appropriate education and training. A PT must also become licensed in every state, many requiring that the licensee receive a physical therapy degree from an accredited school. So prior to choosing a physical therapy school, it's important to evaluate the ones you are thinking about to ensure they will provide a quality education and comply with your state's licensing criteria. What you should not do is enroll in a college simply because it happens to be the nearest to your residence or it has the lowest tuition. There are other important qualifications that need to be evaluated along with location and cost. But before we discuss 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 Does a Physical Therapist Do?

Tanaina Alaska physical therapist helping female patient to walk

Physical therapists practice in varying settings, such as Tanaina AK hospitals, health clinics, rehabilitation centers, nursing homes and health clubs. What the facilities all have in common is that they are equipped for the diagnosis and rehabilitation treatment of patients. As earlier touched on, physical therapists help patients that are struggling with a lack of mobility and often pain caused by injury or illness. After diagnosing a patient, they develop a course of treatment to deal with the mobility problems and reduce or eradicate any pain. They also endeavor to stop any progression of the disability. Although the causes of disability necessitating physical therapy are abundant, they include:

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

Licensed physical therapists practice in close association with other Tanaina AK health professionals, including doctors, chiropractors, registered nurses and dentists. They can also oversee several physical therapy assistants who work under them in diagnosing and treating their patients. One thing to bear in mind for anyone thinking about getting into the physical therapy field, it is quite physically demanding. Physical therapists regularly lift heavy equipment as well as patients, and stand, crouch and kneel for extended periods of time on a daily basis.

Physical Therapist Degrees Available

Tanaina Alaska physical therapist working with man in pool

There are 3 physical therapist degree options offered for students to pursue at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Of these options, the one degree that is attainable that qualifies the graduate to practice as a physical therapist is the doctorate. Undergraduate degrees target either training students to become a physical therapy assistant (PTA) or prepping them to advance to the doctoral level. Following are brief summaries of degrees that are offered to prospective students in the Tanaina AK area:

  • Associate Degrees prepare students to practice as physical therapy assistants, or may be used as a stepping stone to a more advanced degree. Applicants must have earned a high school diploma or GED to qualify for enrollment. The programs are typically offered by community colleges, and take about two years to complete. An internship or other form of clinical training is normally part of the course of study.
  • Bachelor's Degrees are designed as pre-physical therapist training to prepare candidates to move up to the doctoral level. Although they are not a requirement to be a candidate for the doctoral program, they are an integral preliminary step to becoming a PT. Similar to the majority of bachelor's degrees, they normally require four years to complete and often incorporate an internship program of a minimum of 500 hours.
  • Doctorate Degrees are required 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 three years to complete, making the total commitment 7 years in most cases. Practical or clinical training is an intregal component in addition to the substantial lab and classroom instruction. Therefor the completion of an internship is mandated, not just for graduation but in some 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. Some practicing physical therapists having a master's or in some cases a bachelor's degree were "grandfathered" in prior to the existing licensing requirement for a doctorate was implemented.

Physical Therapist Online Schools

Tanaina Alaska woman taking physical therapy training onlineWhile not as prevalent as the more traditional options, there are some accredited online physical therapy programs offered, even more 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 close to the college campus or in proximity of a sponsored internship. Fortunately, the online part of the program can be accessed within the comfort and convenience of the student's Tanaina AK residence. Online programs are not only to some extent more accessible, but in a number of cases more affordable. Tuition might be somewhat lower than similar on campus alternatives, and expenditures 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 option the right choice for those students that are dedicated enough to attend classes at home.

Questions to Ask Physical Therapy Colleges

By now you probably have come to decision regarding a few of your preliminary questions, such as the type of physical therapy degree you intend to earn, where you want to attend classes, and how much money you can afford to spend for your education. But because there are numerous PT schools within the Tanaina AK area and across Alaska, you'll have to explore additional qualifications as well so as to further reduce your list of college options. Also, you need to make certain that you pick the program that is best for you. That's why we have compiled a list of critical questions that you must ask the physical therapist schools you are reviewing. Ask all of the competing schools these questions prior to making an ultimate decision.

Is the Physical Therapist School Accredited?  Find out if the schools you are considering have earned accreditation from a national or a regional agency. As previously 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 college, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council. It's imperative that both the physical therapy program and school you enroll in are accredited, not just the school. Additionally, make sure that the accreditation is from a U.S. Department of Education recognized accrediting agency. In addition to ensuring that you receive an excellent education, accreditation might be mandated for state licensing and even for getting student loans or financial aid.

What is the School's Ranking? In addition to accreditation, it's essential that the school and program you pick have excellent reputations within the physical therapist community. There are a number of ways you can research a PT school's reputation, beginning with requesting references from employers that they refer their students to. You can also check online rating services and reviews and ask the accrediting organizations for their reviews as well. Get in touch with some Tanaina AK physical therapy clinics or other health care facilities that you may have an interest in working for and ask if they can give you any recommendations about your program selections. It may also be a good idea to check with the Alaska Attorney General and school licensing authority to see if any complaints have been submitted against the schools.

What is the College's Job Placement Rate? There are a couple of significant statistics that you should know about all of the physical therapist schools you are looking at. One is their graduation rate. A low rate may indicate that students left due to dissatisfaction with the program, the teachers, or both. Once the students have graduated, how many of them are being placed in jobs with the assistance of the college's job placement program, particularly in the Tanaina AK area? If a school has a higher job placement rate, it's an indication that its reputation within the health care community is good or even outstanding. It also affirms that the program has a broad network of contacts to help students gain internships or employment after graduation.

Does the Program Prepare You For Licensing Requirements? It's imperative that the program you enroll in furnishes both superior training and a curriculum 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 school. While licensing requirements differ 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? Inquire if the physical therapy schools you are reviewing have relationships with Tanaina AK clinics or hospitals for internship programs. Not only are internships a terrific means to obtain hands on 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 students and graduates establish professional connections in the Tanaina medical community and assist with job placement after licensing.

What are the Class Sizes ? Unless you are the type of student that prefers to sit far in the rear of the classroom or get lost in the crowd, you will probably want a smaller class size. Smaller classes permit more individual participation and personalized instruction. Ask the physical therapy schools you are looking at what the typical student to teacher ratio is for their classes. If practical you may prefer to monitor one or more classes before making your ultimate decision. This will also give you a chance to converse with several of the instructors and students to get their perspectives regarding the physical therapist program as well.

Where is the Program Located? For many students, the physical therapist college they decide on will need to be within driving distance of their Tanaina 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 importance. Something to consider is that if you choose to enroll in a college that is out of state or perhaps out of your local area, you may have to pay a higher tuition. State colleges typically charge higher tuitions for out of state residents. And community colleges generally charge a higher tuition to those students that live outside of their districts.

Is Financial Aid Offered? The majority of DPT colleges offer some form of financial support to their prospective students. Find out if the colleges you are looking at have a financial assistance office and find out what kind of assistance is available. They at least should help in securing a student loan or any grants you may be eligible for. Some physical therapist schools provide scholarships, while others offer work programs. So before you eliminate a college because the tuition is beyond your budget, learn what financial assistance may be available.

Can the School Accommodate your Schedule? And last you need to confirm that the physical therapist college you finally choose can furnish the class schedule you need. This is particularly essential if you decide to continue working while attending school. If you need to schedule evening or weekend classes in the Tanaina AK area, verify that they are available. If you can only enroll on a part-time basis, check if that is an option and how many credit hours or courses you would have to enroll in. Also, find out what the protocol is for making up any classes that you might miss as a result of illness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Tanaina Physical Therapy Colleges

Choose the Right Tanaina Physical Therapy School

Selecting the best physical therapist school is an important initial decision you have to make to start a gratifying career in the medical profession. As we have discussed in this article, the DPT or PT degree program and school you enroll in should both have outstanding reputations and be accredited. However there are additional relevant questions that you should ask regarding your college of choice also. As you start your search for a physical therapist college bear in mind that numerous variables will guide you to your final decision. You may decide to visit different campuses to see their facilities and speak to active DPT students. While there, ask yourself this important question: will this school help me reach my goal of becoming a practicing licensed physical therapist? By following our list of supplemental questions, you will be able to narrow down the options so you can make the ideal selection. And with the proper training and education, you can fulfill your dream of becoming a licensed physical therapist in Tanaina Alaska.


 

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