In the US, the practice of physical therapy is regulated by each state independently. Each state has its own relevant law and each state has it’s own physical therapy licensing authority. Because the structure of regulation differs from state to state, physical therapy license requirements vary by state as well – and this can be confusing.
At the same time, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy is a national organization that oversees the examination of physical therapists throughout the country. In order to practice as a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant in the US, you must successfully pass the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Examination). The NPTE (often less formally called “Boards”) is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy, but the Federation does not have the authority to actually license anyone – that’s the responsibility (and privilege) of the states. In addition to the NPTE, some states have additional requirements for licensure.
New Physical Therapy Grads
As you near graduation from your PT program, you should contact the physical therapy licensing authority in the state or states where you wish to practice. You can find a link to your state’s physical therapy licensing board here. You also need to contact the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy to get details about the NPTE testing process. This link will take you directly to the relevant page on their site. Finally, bookmark the physical therapy practice act page for your state on this site. A full listing of states can be found here. This will keep you up to date about the legal practice of physical therapy in the state of your choice.
Relocating PT’s and PTA’s
As you consider relocating to a new state, it is vital that you become familiar with the legal practice of physical therapy in the state you’re considering. Some states have very simple and straightforward practice acts, while others involve a half dozen different pieces of legislation and regulation. Click here to find links to the entire physical therapy practice act in the state you’re considering (you can bookmark several if you’re considering more than one). Once you’ve determined that you’d like to move forward with practice in a new state, contact the physical therapy licensing board in the state you’re considering. A full listing of a state physical therapy licensing authorities can be found here. The state physical therapy licensing authority can give you details about licensure requirements. In most cases, getting the physical therapy license requirements in the new state will include contacting relevant agencies to get records like transcripts or NPTE test scores, but will not require that you take physical therapy boards again.
Foreign Trained Physical Therapists and Physical Therapist Assistants
If you did not graduate from an accredited US physical therapy program, your process to become licensed to practice physical therapy in the US will be a little more complex. Since the US does not have a national physical therapy licensing process, like new grads and relocating physical therapists and physical therapist assistants, you’ll first need to choose the specific state where you plan to practice. States vary significantly in regards to scope of practice, and physical therapy license requirements so you’ll want to be very clear about the legal practice of physical therapy in the state of your choice. A comprehensive listing of links to all state practice acts can be found here. Once you’ve chosen where you’ll practice, contact the physical therapy licensing authority for that state (or jurisdiction) for licensure details. Links to all state physical therapy licensing boards can be found here. Many states will require that you go through a credentialing process as well as completion of the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Examination) before obtaining your physical therapy license. Details about these requirements can be found on this page of the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy website.