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State Tests and Licensing for Physical Therapy

18 October 2009 No Comment


The National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) is supervised by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT). It is a requirement for both physical therapy and physical therapy assistants to take this national examination for licensure in just about every state in the United States. There are a few states that in addition of completing the NPTE and passing, you are also required to pass a state jurisprudence examination satisfactorily. Some states also have more requirements such as certification credentials and exams covering state laws governing physical therapy practice. A good resource that outlines the requirements state by state for physical therapy candidates will be found at:


This source also gives information regarding the requirements for foreign trained physical therapists and what’s required of each state concerning their licensure. Contact information is listed for each state board of physical therapy. Many state boards have websites listed that will also give applicants individual information about requirements and fees. Another website that has listings of state board contact information is The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. As of January 1, 2005 the fee to take the NPTE is $350.

Fees and Duties

These are the steps involved in obtaining state and national licensure:

-Acquire prometric registration materials from a licensing authority such as the state board of physical therapy in the jurisdiction that you live.

-Complete every state requirement outlined in the information and registration packet.

-Follow the instructions in the packet provided by the state board of physical therapy regarding the return of completed registration materials along with payment to the licensing authority.

-Upon approval of the candidate’s application the licensing agency will notify FSBPT.

-FSBPT will mail the candidate an Authorization to Test letter with specific instructions to schedule an appointment with their official testing service which is Prometric.

-Candidates will need to select a prometric site test at within the 60-day eligibility period indicated on the Authorization to Test letter. Candidates are required to test within this period of eligibility or they will have to repeat the registration process for the NPTE.

NPTE exams are composed of multiple-choice questions covering major areas of physical therapy. The physical therapy exam consists of 250 questions while the physical therapy assistant exam consists of 200 different components. Five hours is allowed for candidates taking the physical therapy exam and four hours for the physical therapy assistant exam. These tests are intended evaluate the skills and familiarity of entry-level physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. The questions are determined by actual physical therapists and physical therapist assistants. These exams are computer-based. Since July 1996, all jurisdiction licensing authorities established a score of 600 or above on the NPTE as a passing score and a score lower than 600 as a failing. The Prometric fee for the NPTE for physical therapist candidates is $65. The Prometric fee to take the physical therapist assistant exam is $50.

If a candidate fails the NPTE examination, they are required to go through the registration process all over again as outlined previously in this article. Jurisdiction varies in their regulations regarding how often the examination can be retaken. The Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy will only allow candidates to take the exam a three times in within twelve months. There are some jurisdictions that may regulate a waiting period between examinations.

The requirements for the license renewal of state and national physical therapist assistants and a physical therapist vary by state. State licensing authorities will at times notify licensees a few months before expiration of their licenses but keep in mind that it is your responsibility to follow renewal guidelines. Physical therapists and assistants can be assessed late fees and possibly subjected to disciplinary action if they practice after their license has expired.

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