Becoming a physical therapist requires a passion for—and quite a bit of schooling in—subjects like anatomy, biology, kinesiology, biomechanics, neuroscience, and exercise physiology (as well as a love of working with people). Though the cost of PT education continues to rise, the rewards of helping people improve function, mobility, and overall well-being are vast. If you’ve got questions about this career path, then we’ve got answers. Read on to learn everything you need to know about becoming a physical therapist.

What do physical therapists do?

A physical therapist is an expert in treating patients with neuromusculoskeletal conditions—anything from low back pain and joint injuries to post-stroke symptoms and cerebral palsy. As a physical therapist, you could work with patients of any age to help them:

  • Recover from an injury or surgery;
  • Improve strength, flexibility, and balance; and/or
  • Maintain mobility and function as they age.

To accomplish this for a patient, you would:

  1. Establish good rapport.
  2. Review the patient’s medical history.
  3. Perform an initial evaluation to assess the issue or condition and determine if PT would be appropriate.
  4. If PT is appropriate, create a plan of care detailing the evidence-based treatment type (e.g., exercises, stretches, hands-on therapy, equipment use, and/or a home-exercise program), frequency, and duration necessary to help the patient achieve his or her therapeutic goals.
  5. Carry out the treatment protocol as detailed in your plan of care (POC), while adhering to all insurance and state rules and regulations.
  6. Teach the patient—and family members, if appropriate—how to safely perform daily activities and improve their progress with an at-home exercise program.
  7. Monitor the patient’s progress using outcome measurement tools, adjusting the POC as necessary until the patient reaches his or her goal.

Where do physical therapists work?

Physical therapists may see patients in private clinics, patient homes, hospitals, nursing facilities, schools, or sports arenas. They can work one-on-one with patients or serve as members of a larger care team. Some physical therapists oversee physical therapist assistants or physical therapist technicians (techs). Physical therapists may work for one clinic in one location—or they may travel to different clinics around the country (travel PTs) or different clinics in a particular region (registry PTs). As explained here, “with registry PT, you might be in a different facility each day or week, whereas travel PT usually means you’re in the same place for a few months at a time.” To learn more about travel PT, check out this post; to learn more about registry PT and per diem opportunities, check out this one.

Physical therapists may also work in non-clinical roles (e.g., as executives in healthcare companies, researchers, directors, teachers, writers, or consultants).

Who do you want to work with?

Private Practice

Nursing Home

Hospital

School

Sports Arena

Non-Clinical Setting

Children

   

   

Athletes

     

 

Elderly Patients

     

Patients with Acute or Chronic Conditions—or Those Recovering From Surgery

 

     

No Patients

         

Want to own a physical therapy private practice one day?

Want to own a physical therapy private practice one day?

Download the PT’s guide to starting a private practice, and you’ll learn everything you need to know about starting a successful clinic—including picking a location with the right amount of curb appeal and crossing your legal t’s and dotting your credentialing i’s.

How do physical therapists find patients?

Traditionally, physical therapists have largely relied on physician referrals to keep their treatment schedules full. In other words, physicians determine which patients are good candidates for physical therapy—and send those patients to a specific physical therapist.

Today, however, some form of direct access exists in all 50 states, making it possible for most therapists to—at the very least—perform an initial evaluation without needing a physician referral first. Thus, many providers are expanding their marketing initiatives to reach patients directly. Given that patients are now responsible for a greater portion of their healthcare costs, many are conducting their own research—specifically, online research—about providers and treatment options instead of relying on a referral from their primary care provider (PCP). That’s why it’s important for physical therapists to have an optimized online presence that includes a professional website, positive online reviews, and an active social media presence. That said, most physical therapists still maintain good relationships with physicians and surgeons and obtain many of their patients through the traditional referral process.

How much money do physical therapists make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median pay for physical therapists in May of 2018 was $88,800 per year and $42.73 per hour—with the lowest 10% earning less than $60,390 and the highest earning more than $123,350. 

The industries that hire the most physical therapists are:

Industry

Employment

Annual Mean Wage

Offices of Other Health Practitioners*

81,820

$85,720

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals

54,440

$90,000

Home Health Care Services

27,940

$96,470

Nursing Care Facilities (Skilled Nursing Facilities)

14,870

$92,890

Offices of Physicians

12,120

$86,390

*According to the Department of Labor, this category includes offices of chiropractors; optometrists; mental health practitioners (except physicians); physical, occupational, and speech therapists as well as audiologists; and all other health practitioners.

The top-paying industries for physical therapists are:

Industry

Employment

Annual Mean Wage

Performing Arts Companies

30

$107,700

Child Day Care Services

210

$96,630

Home Health Care Services

27,940

$96,470

Continuing Care Retirement Communities and Assisted Living Facilities for the Elderly

1,590

$95,740

Management, Scientific, and Technical Consulting Services

360

$92,950

Location Matters

Keep in mind that the above-noted numbers are national averages. These stats will differ depending on where you live. The states with the highest number of employed physical therapists are:

State

Employment

Annual Mean Wage

California

20,630

$97,110

New York

16,600

$87,470

Texas

16,120

$92,940

Florida

12,750

$87,410

Pennsylvania

11,720

$87,050

The top-paying states for physical therapists are: 

State

Employment

Annual Mean Wage

Nevada

1,700

$107,920

Alaska

640

$99,180

New Jersey

7,560

$97,770

New Mexico

1,210

$97,210

California

20,630

$97,110

Download your free copy of the PT Salary Guide.

To find out what physical therapists make in your neck of the woods—including a complete state-by-state and metropolitan area breakdown—download our free salary guide here.

Experience Matters

According to Payscale.com, experienced physical therapists receive a salary that is 13% higher than the national average, whereas entry-level PTs receive a salary that’s 9% lower. As it stands, the average entry-level salary for a physical therapist is $67,157.

What kind of a job outlook do physical therapists have?

The demand for physical therapy is growing—and will continue to grow—as more people recognize the need for safe, cost-effective, conservative, and long-term treatment options to address neuromusculoskeletal and chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. With the opioid crisis falling under the national spotlight, payers and legislators are feeling the pressure to find and deliver alternative treatment options—like physical therapy—to their patients. If that’s not enough, according to BLS, many baby boomers are staying active later in life and thus, require the regular attention of a physical therapist. To that end, physical therapist employment is expected to grow 28% from 2016 to 2026, which is “much faster than the average for all occupations.

So, what does that mean for you? If you pursue a career in physical therapy, you’ll likely land a job right out of school given that “job opportunities are expected to be good for licensed physical therapists in all settings,” and are “particularly good in acute-care hospitals, skilled-nursing facilities, and orthopedic settings, where the elderly are most often treated.” The outlook is even better if you want to work in a rural area, because most practicing physical therapists already work in “highly populated urban and suburban areas.”

What kind of software do physical therapists use?

To ensure that patient documentation is defensible and compliant with insurance and state regulations, most physical therapists use an electronic medical record (EMR) to record and store patient health information. Ideally, physical therapists will choose an always-up-to-date, cloud-based EMR and practice management platform that’s designed for physical therapists and provides not only defensible documentation, compliance alerts, and a streamlined workflow, but also:

What does it take to become a physical therapist?

Personality Traits

A provider’s personality greatly affects a patient’s willingness to complete his or her course of care—and thus, his or her therapeutic outcome. It’s safe to say that a provider’s personality matters. Do you have the personality necessary to be a successful PT? 



Education

Students who are interested in becoming physical therapists must first earn a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. Then, they’ll go on to earn a doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) from the graduate school of their choice. Most institutions no longer offer a master of physical therapy degree (MPT). A small number of schools accept students directly out of high school for three years of undergraduate coursework plus three years of graduate-level education.

While you don’t have to select a pre-physical therapy or pre-med major, most graduate schools require students to have a significant amount of applicable prerequisite courses in subjects such as chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, psychology, statistics, mathematics, and English writing. (For a detailed chart of what each DPT program requires, check out this resource from the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service.) Thus, selecting a major with a heavy emphasis in science would be a wise choice (though certainly not mandatory). If you complete, say, a fine arts degree, you may still be able to attend PT school; you might just have to take additional courses to meet the prerequisite course requirements before matriculation. (To learn what your school-of-choice requires, check out its admissions page; for the top-ranked PT programs in the country, scroll to the next section of this page and click the link in the prereqs section of each school.)

Prerequisites

Other prerequisites often include: 

  • A solid GPA (the University of Pittsburgh, for example, only accept students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher);
  • Good Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) test scores taken within the last five years; and
  • Adequate exposure to the profession through volunteer or paid experience in a clinic or hospital.

So, if you plan to pursue a career as a physical therapist, you’ll want to keep your grades up in college and practice for the GRE—and you may want to begin applying for physical therapy internships early in your undergraduate career to ensure you can demonstrate a wealth of experience once it comes time to apply to grad school. (To learn more about getting accepted to PT school, check out this resource.)

Traditional Residency Programs vs. Alternative Hybrid (Online) Models

Most physical therapy programs are full-time, three-year residency programs—which means you must attend class at the university campus. There are, however, some alternative DPT programs with a hybrid learning model that enables students to do most of their coursework online. Of the top-rated schools outlined below, only one offers a hybrid model: University of Southern California (USC). That said, you can expect to see more alternative education options become available as educators and administrators search for ways to reduce student debt and improve the diversity of the profession. 

As explained here, “Evidence in Motion (EIM), for example, has partnered with several universities—including South College and Baylor [not to be confused with the Army-Baylor program ranked below]—to offer accelerated, two-year hybrid DPT programs, making it easier for students to complete their coursework without incurring such significant debt.” As it stands, both programs are “enrolling 100 students a year, and EIM is in development with Tufts University, Hanover College, and Hawai'i Pacific University to create similar programs—with plans to finalize partnerships with several other universities in 2019.”

Coursework

Each school has its own requirements regarding the coursework you must complete to graduate. For instance, here is USC’s current curriculum (for class descriptions, please refer to this page on the USC website):

  • PT 509 Cellular and Systems Physiology
  • PT 514L Musculoskeletal Anatomy
  • PT 516 Principles of Disease
  • PT 521L Basics of Patient Management
  • PT 529 Life Span Motor Control
  • PT 530a Therapeutic Exercise
  • PT 530b Special Topics in Therapeutic Exercise
  • PT 534L Neuroanatomy
  • PT 536 Pathology of Cardiopulmonary Disease and General Medical Conditions
  • PT 539 Clinical Pharmacology
  • PT 546 Neuropathology
  • PT 549L Clinical Exercise Physiology
  • PT 551L Therapeutic Application of Physical Agents
  • PT 554L Analytical Anatomy
  • PT 561a–e Evidence for Physical Therapist Practice
  • PT 566 Disorders of the Musculoskeletal System
  • PT 569 Fundamentals of Neuroscience
  • PT 571L Clinical Management of Cardiopulmonary Dysfunction
  • PT 574 Clinical Biomechanics (Movement Analysis II)
  • PT 581L Clinical Management of the Patient with Neurological Dysfunction
  • PT 582 Mechanics of Human Gait (Movement Analysis I)
  • PT 583L Clinical Electrophysiology
  • PT 599 Emerging Topics
  • PT 600a–d Clinical Clerkship
  • PT 606 Clinical Imaging
  • PT 621 Clinical Management of The Patient with Musculoskeletal Dysfunction
  • PT 630 Integrated Patient Management Clinical Skills
  • PT 632 Integrated Patient Management Seminar
  • PT 660 16-Week Integrated Terminal Clinical Education Experience With Academic Integration
  • PT 665 16-Week Terminal Full-Time Clinical Education Experience

Licensing

Once you receive your DPT, you’ll be ready to sit for your multiple-choice licensing exam: the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). According to the NPTE website, “the NPTE is only one part of the evaluation process used by licensing authorities to assess your competence. Contact your jurisdiction to find out what additional requirements there are, such as taking the jurisprudence exam.”

In other words, be sure to review the requirements for licensure in your state, so you know what to expect before it comes time to graduate as a DPT.

Credentialing

If you’re opting to go in-network with insurance companies, then you’ll need to receive credentials from those payers. As explained here, “Some payers—like Medicare—do not allow non-credentialed providers to treat or collect payment from patients for any covered services.” To apply for credentials, you’ll need:

  • malpractice insurance,
  • an NPI,
  • a physical clinic location, and
  • a license to practice in your state.

If you join an in-network practice, that company may already have an established credentialing process that will help you get credentialed with the right insurance companies.

Post-Graduate Study

If you choose to further your education beyond your doctorate degree through clinical fellowships or residency programs, you may do so. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), these are great ways for “licensed physical therapists to enhance their knowledge and practice.” 

Residency

Per the APTA, a clinical residency program is “designed to significantly advance a physical therapist resident's preparation as a provider of patient care services in a defined area of clinical practice. It combines opportunities for ongoing clinical supervision and mentoring with a theoretical basis for advanced practice and scientific inquiry.”

Fellowship

On the other hand, clinical fellowships are offered to physical therapists “who demonstrate clinical expertise in an area of clinical practice related to the practice focus of the fellowship. (Fellows are frequently post-residency prepared or board-certified specialists.)”

Board Certification

If you wish to “build on a broad base of professional education and practice to develop a greater depth of knowledge and skills related to a particular area of practice,” then you may want to consider becoming a board-certified specialist through the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS) in one of the following areas:

  • Cardiovascular and Pulmonary
  • Clinical Electrophysiology
  • Geriatrics
  • Neurology
  • Orthopaedics
  • Pediatrics
  • Sports Physical Therapy
  • Women's Health

Where should I go to school to become a physical therapist?

While the PT school you choose to attend is ultimately up to you, the APTA urges anyone considering a career as a physical therapist to choose a Doctorate of Physical Therapy program that is accredited by CAPTE—otherwise, you may not be eligible to sit for your licensure exam, and only licensed PTs may practice. With that in mind, below are the US News and World Report’s top-ranked PT schools (all of which are accredited by CAPTE). That said, rankings aren’t everything, so be sure to do your own research on all schools you’re considering, including paying each one a visit and talking to real students about their experience.

According to the Report, “each school's score reflects its average rating on a scale from 1 (marginal) to 5 (outstanding), based on a survey of academics at peer institutions.” (Additional details below were collected from each university, the CAPTE website, Peterson’s, and the PTCAS by the APTA. We make no guarantees as to the accuracy or currentness of this information.)

4.3 Points

University of Delaware in Newark, DE

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (302) 831-4576 | pt-admissions@udel.edu
  • Program Director: Gregory Hicks, PT, PhD | Associate Professor and Chair
  • Cohort Size: ~60 students
  • Tuition: $1,051/credit hour 
  • Acceptance Rate: 26%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT 
  • School Type: Public
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, PA

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (412) 383-6630 | ptinfo@shrs.pitt.edu
  • Program Director: James J Irrgang, PT, PhD, ATC, FAPTA | Professor and Chair
  • Cohort Size: ~198 students in the graduate program
  • Tuition: $41,796 per year
  • Acceptance Rate: 27%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT
  • School Type: Public
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (323) 442-2900 | jamesgor@usc.edu
  • Program Director: James Gordon, PT, EdD, FAPTA | Associate Dean and Chair
  • Cohort Size: ~95 in the residential DPT program | ~48 in the hybrid program
  • Tuition: $67,389 each for years 1 and 2; $40,715 for the third year
  • Acceptance Rate: 16% in 2017 (for the in-person program)
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT and full-time hybrid
  • School Type: private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

Washington University in St. Louis, MO

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (314) 286-1400 | ptprog@email.wustl.edu
  • Program Director: Gammon Earhart, PT, PhD 
  • Cohort Size: ~81
  • Tuition: $20,362 per academic semester | $3,328 to $4,992 per clinical education segment
  • Acceptance Rate: 40%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT 
  • School Type: Private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

4.1 Points

Emory University in Atlanta, GA

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (404) 712-5660 | dptadmissions@emory.edu
  • Program Director: Marie A Johanson, PT, PhD, OCS | Interim Program Director and Professor
  • Cohort Size: ~155
  • Tuition: $11,100 per semester (as of 2016)
  • Acceptance Rate: 25%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT
  • School Type: Private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

4 Points

Northwestern University in Chicago, IL

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (312) 908-8160 | j-dewald@northwestern.edu
  • Program Director: Julius P Dewald, PT, PhD  | Chair and Program Administrator
  • Cohort Size: ~95 students
  • Tuition: $121,688
  • Acceptance Rate: 17%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT
  • School Type: Private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

University of Iowa in Iowa City, IA

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (319) 335-9791 | physical-therapy@uiowa.edu
  • Program Director: Richard K Shields, PT, PhD, FAPTA  | Professor and Director
  • Cohort Size: ~42 students
  • Tuition: $61,972 Iowa resident / $120,599 nonresident
  • Acceptance Rate: 11.4% in 2018
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT 
  • School Type: Public
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

3.8 Points

MGH Institute of Health Professions in Boston, MA 

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (617) 726-8009 | entrydpt@mghihp.edu
  • Program Director: Julie J Keysor, PT, PhD 
  • Cohort Size: 118
  • Tuition: $142,400
  • Acceptance Rate: 19%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT 
  • School Type: Private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

Army-Baylor University in Fort Sam Houston, TX

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (210) 221-6457 | usarmy.jbsa.medcom-ameddcs.mbx.army-baylor-dpt-program@mail.mil
  • Program Director: Theodore Croy, PT, PhD, OCS 
  • Cohort Size: 26 students (20 Army, 3 Navy, and 3 Air Force students)
  • Tuition: $0
  • Acceptance Rate: Unavailable
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT 
  • School Type: Public
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

3.7 Points

Duke University in Durham, NC

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (919) 681-4380 | chad.cook@duke.edu
  • Program Director: Chad E Cook, PT, PhD, MBA, FAAOMPT
  • Cohort Size: ~82 students accepted each year
  • Tuition: $38,000 per year
  • Acceptance Rate: 84% (of early decision applicants who are interviewed)
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT 
  • School Type: Private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

The Ohio State University in Columbus, OH

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (614) 292-5922 | Buford.5@osu.edu
  • Program Director: John A Buford, PT, PhD
  • Cohort Size: 47-50 students accepted each year
  • Tuition: $6,932.40 per semester for Ohio residents; $16,016.40 per semester for non-residents
  • Acceptance Rate: 20%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT
  • School Type: Public
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

University of Florida in Gainesville, FL

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (352) 273-6085 | wmcgehee@phhp.ufl.edu
  • Program Director: William F McGehee, PT, PhD 
  • Cohort Size: Up to 70 students accepted each year
  • Tuition: $22,721.72 per year for Florida residents; $31,961.72 for non-residents
  • Acceptance Rate: Unavailable
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT
  • School Type: Public
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

University of Miami in Coral Gables, FL

  • Contact Phone Number and Email: (305) 284-4535 | nkirksanchez@miami.edu
  • Program Director: Neva J Kirk-Sanchez, PT, PhD | Program Director and Chair
  • Cohort Size: ~58 students
  • Tuition: $11,500.00 per semester
  • Acceptance Rate: 17.76%
  • Program: In-person full-time DPT
  • School Type: Private not-for-profit
  • Prereqs: Bachelor’s degree +

What does it take to remain a physical therapist?

After you receive your physical therapist license, you’ll most likely be required to complete continuing education units (CEUs) to maintain your license and keep up on the latest in physical therapy research. Now, depending on where you practice, your CEU requirements will vary, which is why we put together this handy list. To see the CEU requirements for your state, click the appropriate link in the alphabetized link-bank below.

Alabama to Hawaii

  • Alabama: 10 PT contact hours every year with a renewal date of September 30
  • Alaska: 24 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of June 30 (in even-numbered years).
  • Arizona: 20 PT contact hours (2 CEUs) every two years with a renewal date of August 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • Arkansas: 20 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • California: 30 PT contact hours (3 CEUs) every two years with a renewal date that falls on the last day of the licensee’s birth month, beginning two years post-issuance.
  • Colorado: 30 PT contact hours (30 points) every two years with a renewal date of October 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • Connecticut: 20 PT contact hours every year with a renewal date that falls on the last day of the licensee’s birth month.
  • District of Columbia: 40 PT contact hours (4 CEUs) every two years with a renewal date of January 31 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Delaware: 30 PT contact hours (3 CEUs) every two years with a renewal date of January 31 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Florida: 24 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of November 30 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Georgia: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Hawaii: 30 contact hours (30 CCUs) every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years).

Idaho to Mississippi

  • Idaho: 16 PT contact hours every year with a renewal data that falls on the last day of the licensee’s birth month.
  • Illinois: 40 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of September 30 (in even-numbered years).
  • Indiana: 22 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of June 30 (in even-numbered years).
  • Iowa: 40 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal data that falls on the 15th day of the licensee’s birthday month.
  • Kansas: 40 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years, but reported in odd-numbered years).
  • Kentucky: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of March 31 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Louisiana: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of March 31 (in odd- or even-numbered years based on the licensee’s birth year).
  • Maine: There are no continuing education requirements in Maine; licenses renew March 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • Maryland: 30 PT contact hours every two years (CEUs must be completed by March 31; licenses renew May 31 in odd- or even-numbered years based on the license ID number).
  • Massachusetts: There are no continuing education requirements in Massachusetts; licenses renew on the licensee’s birthday.
  • Michigan: 24 professional development requirements (PDR) credits every two years with a renewal date of July 31 based on original licensure date (PDRs aren’t required for the first renewal).
  • Minnesota: 20 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of Dec 31 annually (CEUs are due every two years based on the license issue date).
  • Mississippi: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of June 30 (last names beginning with A-L renew in odd-numbered years; last names beginning with M-Z renew in even-numbered years).

Missouri to Pennsylvania

  • Missouri: 30 PT contact hours every two years (CEUs are due December 31 in odd-numbered years prior to license renewal).
  • Montana: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a license renewal date of April 1 annually (CEUs are due in odd-numbered years).
  • Nebraska: 20 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of November 1 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Nevada: 15 PT contact hours (1.5 CEUs) every year with a renewal date of July 31.
  • New Hampshire: 24 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years)
  • New Jersey: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of January 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • New Mexico: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of January 31 (even-numbered licenses renew in even-numbered years; odd-numbered licenses renew in odd-numbered years).
  • New York: 36 PT contact hours every three years (CEUs are due on the last day of the licensee’s birth month beginning three years after the license issue date).
  • North Carolina: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date based on licensure date.
  • North Dakota: 25 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of January 31.
  • Ohio: 24 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of January 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • Oklahoma: 40 PT contact hours every two years with an annual license renewal date of January 31 (CEUs are due December 31 in odd-numbered years).
  • Oregon: 24 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of March 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • Pennsylvania: 30 PT contact hours (10 of which must be approved for direct access) every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years).

Rhode Island to Wyoming

  • Rhode Island: 24 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of March 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • South Carolina: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • South Dakota: 15 PT contact hours every year with a renewal date of January 1.
  • Tennessee: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date based on the licensee’s birth date (CEUs are due by the last day of the month prior to the birth month).
  • Texas: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date that falls on the last day of the licensee’s birth month.
  • Utah: 40 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of May 31 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Vermont: 24 PT contact hours (24 CCUs) every two years with a renewal date of September 30 (in even-numbered years).
  • Virginia: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of December 31 (in even-numbered years).
  • Washington: 40 PT contact hours every two years with an annual renewal date that falls on the licensee’s birthday.
  • West Virginia: 24 PT contact hours (24 units) every two years with a renewal date of December 31.
  • Wisconsin: 30 PT contact hours every two years with a renewal date of February 28 (in odd-numbered years).
  • Wyoming: 30 PT contact hours every two years with an annual license renewal date of October 1.

What other options are available to me in the PT field?

If you decide not to become a physical therapist—but you enjoy the rehab therapy field—you can also become: 

  • an occupational therapist;
  • a speech-language pathologist;
  • a therapist assistant (PTA, OTA, or SLPA); or
  • a therapist technician. 

Or, if you’d rather forego clinical work altogether, you can choose to work in the front or back office of a clinic, performing administrative or billing tasks. Finally, you can apply to work for a leading technology company in the physical therapy space—like WebPT. Check out our careers page here.

PT vs. PTA vs. Tech

While there is certainly overlap between physical therapists, physical therapist assistants (PTAs), and technicians (a.k.a. aides), there are some important distinctions. For example, in a clinical setting, all three roles work with patients; however, physical therapists are responsible for creating—and overseeing—patient plans of care. Thus, they are the ones who must:

  • Interpret patient referrals, 
  • Complete all evaluations, 
  • Diagnose patient conditions,
  • Supervise PTAs and techs,  
  • Cosign all PTA-completed notes, and
  • Establish discharge plans.

Physical Therapist Assistants

According to the APTA, PTAs “implement selected components of patient/client interventions (treatment), obtain data related to the interventions provided, and make modifications in selected interventions either to progress the patient/client as directed by the physical therapist or to ensure patient/client safety and comfort.” In most cases, payers—including Medicare—will pay for PTA-provided services as long as they adhere to the established supervision and billing requirements; however, starting January 1, 2022, Medicare will only reimburse 85% of the usual rate for services provided in-part or in-full by a PTA or OTA.

Technicians

Finally, as we explained here, “techs help keep the clinic running like a well-oiled machine by cleaning equipment, preparing treatment areas, and assisting patients in moving from room to room—as well as “assist[ing] with clerical duties and paperwork.” According to the APTA, technicians may not perform duties that “require the clinical decision-making of the physical therapist or the clinical problem solving of the physical therapist assistant.” That said, they’re still integral members of the physical therapy team and can have a huge impact on the patient experience—and thus, the practice’s reputation.

To learn more about the differences between a physical therapist assistant and a technician—including job responsibilities, education requirements, and salary information—check out this post. To learn more about when a practice might hire a PT vs. PTA, check out this one.

Curious to learn about the current state of the physical therapy industry—from physical therapists themselves? 

Download our 2019 State of Rehab Therapy Report today to learn what PTs think and feel about the profession.

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