Becoming a Physical Therapist in Virginia – VA

Physical therapy is one of the hottest career fields for Virginians these days.  The unemployment rate for physical therapists is less than 2%, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that available positions for physical therapists will increase by up to 30% by the year 2016.  On top of that, with average salaries ranging between $85,000 and $95,000, physical therapists in Virginia get paid significantly more than the average salary for physical therapists nationwide.

Steps to Become a Physical Therapist in Virginia

There are three major steps to becoming a physical therapist in Virginia: 1) graduating from a program in physical therapy that is accredited by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) or from a non-accredited program that offers an equivalent curriculum; 2) passing the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE); and 3) getting licensed by the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy. 

Candidates must submit an application for licensure to the Board of Physical Therapy prior to taking the NPTE.  Application forms and instructions are available on the Board’s website at http://www.dhp.virginia.gov/physicaltherapy/.  The application must be accompanied by a non-refundable application fee of $140.00.  In addition, applicants must provide proof of their educational credentials by submitting Form L, which is to be completed by an appropriate official from the applicant’s school, and an official transcript bearing the school seal and the date of the applicant’s graduation. 

If an applicant has graduated from a physical therapy program that is not APTA-accredited, he or she must submit evidence that the program offers a curriculum that substantially satisfies APTA accreditation criteria.  This situation often arises when the applicant has attended school outside the United States.  Such applicants must submit a completed Form L , an official transcript, and a copy of their diploma.  If the diploma is written in a foreign language, a notarized English translation must also be provided. 
If the applicant is a native of a country where the official language is other than English, then he or she must submit evidence of having taken and passed either the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), the TOEFL iBT (the TOEFL Internet-Based Test), or the TSE (Test of Spoken English).  This testing requirement may be waived if the applicant is able to supply acceptable alternate evidence of his or her proficiency in English.  Finally, the applicant must have his or her educational credentials evaluated and approved by one of two credentialing agencies designated by the Board of Physical Therapy: the Foreign Credentialing Commission on Physical Therapy located in Alexandria, Virginia or the International Consultants of Delaware, Inc. in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  Candidates from non-accredited programs must also complete a 1000-hour traineeship before being licensed or else submit proof that they have worked as a licensed physical therapist for at least a year in a state or territory of the United States or in Canada.

After submitting the application materials, the applicant must register to take the NPTE and notify the Board as soon as he or she has done so.  The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT).  Applicants must register for the NPTE online through the FSBPT’s website at www.fsbpt.org.  An examination services fee of $350.00 must be paid by credit card at the time of online registration. 
Applicants may take the NPTE three times.  If an applicant does not pass the exam on the third try, then he or she may retake the exam only with the approval of the Board of Physical Therapy after taking additional coursework or clinical training. Applicants must complete all steps required to get their license, including passing the NPTE, within one year of filing the initial application form with the Board.  Otherwise, the applicant will be required to restart the application process from the beginning and repay the application and examination services fees.

Once they have begun the application process, applicants may work as trainees under the direct supervision of a Virginia licensed physical therapist until such time as they receive their NPTE results.  However, they must first submit an application for a traineeship to the Board of Physical Therapy.  No traineeship application will be approved until the application for licensure has been submitted and the applicant has registered for the NPTE.  The traineeship officially ends two days after the Board receives the applicants NPTE results from the FBPST.  If the applicant passed the NPTE, then he or she will receive a Virginia physical therapy license at which point he or she can begin working as a full-fledged physical therapist.      

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