Becoming a Physical Therapist in Washington – WA

Physical therapy is an excellent career choice for Washingtonians who are interested in pursuing a health-related occupation.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects an increase of more than twenty-five percent in physical therapy jobs in the coming decade.  The Pacific Northwest, in particular, is expected to experience significant growth in employment opportunities and average salaries for physical therapists.  Currently, a new physical therapist in Washington State can conservatively expect to make at least $60,000 a year in his or her first job after graduating from physical therapy school, and experienced physical therapists can make as much as $90,000 a year or more.

How to Become a Physical Therapist in Washington

Physical therapists in Washington are licensed by the Washington State Department of Health Board of Physical Therapy.  Washington law requires that all applicants for a physical therapy license either obtain: 1) a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, or 2) a bachelor’s degree in any field followed by a graduate degree in physical therapy.  In practical terms, however, applicants must complete a graduate program, as the Board of Physical Therapy requires a degree from a school accredited by CAPTE, the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education, and CAPTE no longer approves of four-year baccalaureate programs as sufficient training for licensed physical therapists.

Application forms for a physical therapy license are available for download at the Board of Physical Therapy website at http://www.doh.wa.gov/hsqa/Professions/Physical_Therapy.  Application forms must be submitted to the Board along with a non-refundable $100 application fee and a current passport-sized photograph.  Prior to submitting the application, applicants must take and pass with a score of 100% the Washington State jurisprudence exam for physical therapy.  The jurisprudence exam tests the applicant’s knowledge of state laws and regulations pertaining to the practice of physical therapy.  The exam can be taken online through the Board of Physical Therapy’s website.  Upon passage of the exam, the applicant will be directed to a screen containing a certificate of successful completion which should be downloaded, printed out, and submitted with the application form.  In addition, applicants must attest on their application form that they have completed a required seven-hour training course in AIDS prevention, transmission, and treatment.  Applicants must also submit an official transcript with date of graduation, showing their successful completion of an accredited program in physical therapy.  If a final official transcript is not yet available, applicants may submit a letter from a school official with the application form in order to initiate the application process, but a full license will not be conferred until the transcript is provided.  Applicants must also undergo a background check

After submitting the application forms and supporting documentation, the applicant must register through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) to take the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE).  An additional fee of $350 is payable to FSBPT at the time of online registration.  Applicants who do not pass the NPTE after two attempts must obtain Board approval and undergo additional clinical training before being allowed two more attempts to pass the exam.  Applicants can apply for an interim permit to practice physical therapy under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist during the pendency of the application.  However, the permit is automatically rescinded if the Board is notified that the applicant has failed the NPTE and cannot be renewed.  Applicants whose applications are approved and pass the NPTE will be granted a license to practice physical therapy in Washington State.

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