Licensing and Certification

Once you have graduated from physical therapy school, you become part of a profession that has rules created by the law and the profession. Whether you go into a residency to specialize in an area of physical therapy, a fellowship, or right into clinical practice, you will need to be licensed. Licensing is handled by regulatory boards at the state and national levels. The license tells the board that you are competent and will follow the rules that govern good practice for your profession. It is possible to have your license temporarily or permanently revoked you if conduct yourself in a manner that puts your patients’ health or lives in danger or if you are unethical.

To be licensed, all physical therapy students will have to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam and an exam developed by the regulatory board of the state in which you choose to practice. If you decide to move to a different state, you may be able to simply transfer your license or you might have to take that state’s exam depending on where you go. To keep your license up to date, you will have to get it renewed, which involves taking continuing education classes that will keep you informed on the latest information in the field.


To obtain your physical therapy license, you must graduate from an accredited physical therapy school and pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE), which is given in every state in the United States. Then you will be required to take a test designed by the regulatory board of the state in which you end up working. If you pass a test in one state, you can usually get licensed in another state with the exception of some states like New Hampshire, New York, and Minnesota, in which you have to pass their specific state exam.

To keep your license, you will have to get it renewed on a regular basis (usually every two years). This will most often require you to participate in continuing education (CE). CE will help you maintain your skills, keep updated on new ideas and techniques, and allow you to connect with other physical therapists from all over the country. CE is usually achieved through seminars and conferences where you go and listen to physical therapists lecture on various aspects of the profession. Getting your license renewed will cost money, and CE can also be costly: travel, lodging, and entry fees for each class. Sometimes your employer will reimburse you for the costs incurred. Every state has different requirements in terms of how many hours of CE are required, if any, so it is important to contact the regulatory board of the state in which you work for more information.