Physical Therapy Licensing Overview

By Brenda on January 18th, 2012


Becoming a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant takes a lot of hard work and dedication. To become a physical therapist you must graduate from one of the few hundred accredited physical therapy schools with a master’s or doctorate. Only a small handful offer masters degrees while the vast majority confers doctorate degrees. Physical therapy assistants also need post secondary training in the form of a two year associate’s degree.

In addition to obtaining a degree you must also pass the national physical therapy exam to practice as a licensed physical therapist or physical therapy assistant. Each state regulates the licensing process with the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy overseeing all states. The Federation also is responsible for creating and administering the national exam.

The test for physical therapists includes five sections of 50 multiple questions. One section of 50 test questions are not graded and used for research purposes only. The physical therapy assistant test is made up of four sections of 50 multiple choice questions. It too has one section of 50 questions that are not graded. The scoring range is 200-800 with a passing score of at least 600 required to obtain licensure.

Students are allowed to take up to four total breaks throughout the test with just one scheduled break between sections. Taking more than the one scheduled break will cut into your test time so be aware.

Data shows that in 2010 first time test takers of the physical therapist test passed at a rate of 87%. First time test takers of the physical therapy assistant test passed at an 82% clip. The test costs $370 along with an additional test sitting fee of $70.60. The test does not have to be taken in the jurisdiction where you plan on practicing.

In addition to the national physical therapy test, some states require a state jurisprudence exam be passed in order to practice. The jurisprudence tests are also used for licensing renewal purposes. The majority of states administer their own state exam. It is important to know your state’s jurisprudence test requirements.

Once licensing is obtained it is the responsibility of the therapist or assistant to keep up on continuing education. This ensures the professional keeps up with evolving methods, technology, and best practices. Each state has different continuing education requirements. Professionals must make sure the continuing education they are pursuing is an approved activity as stated by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Continuing education may include classes, workshops, conferences, and research.


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