Becoming a Physical Therapist in New York – NY

The field of physical therapy has shown a steady rise since January of 2009 in the state of New York (Indeed.com).  There are an estimated 12,700 physical therapists currently practicing in the state (Bureau of Labor Statistics), comprising approximately 2.7%of the healthcare workforce.  The highest salary for a physical therapist in New York is in New York City ($111,000), with the lowest in Albany at $71,000. 

The first step towards becoming a physical therapist is to decide where you will be going to school to begin your education.  Two options exist for undergraduate students; the first one is to attend a school that offers a pre-physical therapy program.  These programs offer structured curriculums that are established in order to make the natural progression into graduate school for physical therapy.  Many also offer a transition into their school’s graduate program or will partner with another institution for admission if they do not have a graduate physical therapy program offered.  The second option is to select a major in a science field such as chemistry, kinesiology, biology, biomechanics, or exercise science.  This option will take a little more effort on your part, as you will need to make sure you are meeting the requirements for admission to graduate school.  Many undergraduate students also choose to seek out volunteer or internship opportunities that allow them to see the profession in the real world and follow a physical therapist in the various settings of employment.

Once you have completed the undergraduate portion of your education, the next step is to choose a graduate school.  All physical therapy graduate programs offer a master’s degree and recently some have transitioned into offering doctorate (DPT) programs that allow you to pursue this advanced degree.   Regardless of the level of degree you pursue, the graduate portion of your education will include classroom and clinical experiences.  The clinical experiences are offered in the different settings of physical therapy and are designed to give students the opportunity to see the similarities and differences of each so they can better understand the role of the physical therapist and perhaps where they would feel most suited or comfortable once they are able to begin practicing. 

After completion of the requirements for education to become a physical therapist, the next step is to apply for and pass the National Physical Therapy Exam, which is offered through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy.   This multiple choice exam is given at testing centers throughout the United States and is a requirement before you can become a practicing physical therapist in any state.  Once you have completed the application process and submitted all the information along with the required fees (currently $350 plus $50-65 for the testing center fee), you will be eligible to schedule your testing date.  If you are unsuccessful on your first attempt, you may take it up to three times in a year, with the fees paid in full each time.
Several states, including New York, require physical therapists to hold a state license before they are eligible to begin practice.  The New York State Education Department oversees the Office of Professions, which is responsible for regulating licensure.  The process for obtaining licensure includes an application, application fee ($294), proof of graduation from an approved institution (official transcript sent from the school), and proof of successful completion of the national exam.  Once all of this information is received and approved by the Office of Professions, you will receive your license and can then begin practicing under the state’s laws. 

Step by Step on Becoming a Physical Therapist in New York

  1. Complete an undergraduate program with a major in either pre-physical therapy or similar (i.e. science based curriculum)
  2. Complete a graduate level physical therapy program that culminates in either a master’s or a doctorate (DPT) degree
  3. Apply for and successfully complete the National Physical Therapy Examination
  4. Submit the necessary information to begin the process of obtaining a physical therapy license in the state of New York
  5. Approval of application for a physical therapy license
  6. Receipt of a New York physical therapy license
  7. Understand and comply with all conduct and continuing education requirements as set forth by the state of New York

Physical Therapy Schools