How To Work In The USA : A Physical Therapist’s Roadmap

In the United States, employment of physical therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. The growing elderly population is particularly vulnerable to chronic and debilitating conditions that require therapeutic services. Also, the baby-boom generation is entering the prime age for heart attacks and strokes, increasing the demand for cardiac and physical rehabilitation. Physical Therapists are included “Schedule A” or occupations for which the U.S. Department of Labor has determined insufficient in number, who are able, willing, qualified and available. Inclusion on “Schedule A” also establishes that the employment of foreign physical therapist in such occupations will not adversely affect the wages and working conditions of U.S. workers similarly employed.

US Licensure

After graduating from an American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) accredited physical therapist educational program, therapists must take a computer-based US PT Licensure Exam or the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE) before they can practice. Since there is no APTA accredited program in the Philippines, any PT student who graduated in the Philippines should undergo credentialing.


Credentialing is performed by a board-approved agency to ensure that the foreign educated physical therapists’ (FEPT) education is equivalent to a U.S. awarded Physical Therapy degree. Every state has specific requirements for the number of hours in each subject and the breakdown of clinical requirements. Each state also has specific credentialing agencies they work with. These are Foreign Credentialing Commission on PT (FCCPT), International Consultants of Delaware (ICD), International Credentialing Associates (ICA), International Educational Research Foundation (IERF) and Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE). It depends on the state what credentialing body they use. An applicant should choose the state offered by his/her employer.


Some states require a Philippine PT License to practice as a physical therapist in their jurisdiction. For graduates after January 1, 2003, some states requires a post baccalaureate master’s degree. Some states may require Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), Test of Spoken English (TSE) and/or Test of Written English (TWE) administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). Each state has established its own criteria for eligibility to sit for the NPTE. The applicant should review the materials distributed by the state licensing authority, to which applicant intend to apply for licensure or certification, to determine if he/she have met that authority’s eligibility requirements. Fees for licensure vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and the fee for the National Physical Therapy Examination for PT’s is $350, which is for the examination only.

Alternate Identification Number

FSBPT also requires a unique identification number in order for an applicant to sit for the NPTE. This should be the applicant’s US Social Security Number. If the applicant does not have a US Social Security Number, he/she may obtain one from the US Social Security Administration. In cases where an applicant cannot obtain a Social Security Number, an “Alternate Identification Number” (AIN) may be obtained from FSBPT by application. The applicant may print an application for an alternate identification number from FSBPT.

Authorization to Test

After completing all the eligibility requirements in the state the applicant is applying FSBPT will send an “Authorization to Test” letter to the applicant containing instructions on how to schedule an appointment with Prometric. The applicant must also sit for the examination within the 60-day eligibility period as indicated on “Authorization to Test” letter provided by FSBPT. The Prometric fee for the National Physical Therapy Examination for PT’s is $65.

National Physical Therapy Exam

The computer-based NPTE is administered by FSBPT through approximately 300 Prometric testing centers in the United States. Computer knowledge is not required to take a computerized examination. The applicant is allowed to take the exam for 5 hours. There are 250 items. 50 pre-test questions are included and scores will only be based on 200 scored items. Scores are based on the number of questions answered correctly. There is no additional penalty for incorrect answers. The scores are transmitted by FSBPT to the licensing authority. Individual licensing authorities make all decisions regarding licensure. One commonality among U.S. licensing authorities is that, effective last July 1996, all licensing authorities adopted FSBPT’s criterion-referenced passing point, so that the minimum passing score is now the same in all jurisdictions.

The NPTE program’s purpose is to provide examination services to regulatory authorities charged with the regulation of physical therapists and to provide a common element in the evaluation of candidates so that standards will be comparable from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The national examination is only one part of the evaluation process used by licensing authorities. In some jurisdictions, the national examination is supplemented by other means of assessing candidates’ ability to provide physical therapy.

US Visa

Since you need to be in the US Mainland to take the NPTE, A US Visa is needed to sit for the exam. You have many options in obtaining a US Visa. You may apply as a tourist, you may come to the US in a business trip or you may look for an employer who can sponsor you to work as a Physical Therapist in the United States. There are still other ways to obtain a US Visa. This is discussed in the “US Visa and Immigration” portion of this website.

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  • Will Crane

    I like the description of how to obtain licensure in the USA. I feel like this framework is very beneficial to budding PT’s outside of the US. I also want to share a great NPTE exam preparation resource. Physical Therapy Exam Prep is an awesome resource for those preparing for the National Physical Therapy Exam. Be sure to check it out– lots of free stuff!

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