Alabama Physical Therapist and Physical Therapist Assistant Certification and Licensure
Over the next 10 years the nationwide demand for physical therapists is projected to skyrocket at a rate of 36 percent. In Alabama this growth may be even larger as 15 percent of the state’s population is over the age of 65 – already higher than the national average – and this number is expected to continue to increase for at least the next decade. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures show that last year in Alabama the average annual physical therapist salary was nearly $80,000.
The State of Alabama Board of Physical Therapy is the licensing agency for physical therapy professionals. Since 1965 the Board of Physical Therapy has been licensing qualified professionals in this field, who must complete the following steps in order to practice in Alabama:
- Step 1: Complete the Required Physical Therapy/PT Assistant Education
- Step 2: Complete Alabama’s Required Exams
- Step 3: Apply for PT/PTA Licensure
- Step 4: Maintain Your License
Step 1: Complete the Required Physical Therapy/PT Assistant Education
To become a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant in Alabama you will need to start by completing a program of education that is approved by the American Physical Therapy Association’s Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). This commission maintains accreditation of 218 physical therapy programs and 309 physical therapy assistant programs nationwide, including three PT programs and six PTA programs located in Alabama.
Option for a Temporary License
Once you have completed an approved PT/PTA education program you will be eligible for a temporary license in your field while you prepare to complete next step of passing the NPTE exam. To be approved for the temporary license you must submit a Supervisory Agreement to the State of Alabama Board of Physical Therapy that demonstrates you will only be practicing under the supervision of an experienced physical therapist.
Step 2: Complete Alabama’s Required Exams
You will need to pass two examinations to become a physical therapist assistant or physical therapist in Alabama:
- National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
- Alabama Jurisprudence Exam
National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and is offered in two different versions for prospective physical therapists or physical therapist assistants:
- The Physical Therapist Exam consists of 250 questions covering the unique topics of:
- Conducting a physical therapy examination
• Bases for evaluation, range of diagnosis and prognosis
- Conducting a physical therapy examination
- The Physical Therapist Assistant Exam consists of 200 questions that cover the unique topics of:
- Data collection for physical therapy
- The impact of effective treatment on different diseases and treatments
Both are multiple-choice and also share the following overlapping content areas:
- Types of interventions
- Devices, equipment, and other therapeutic options
- Professional responsibilities; safety and protection; research
- Major and important body systems
You can register online for these exams, which both cost $370. A passing score on the NPTE is considered to be a scale score of 600, criterion-referenced.
Alabama Jurisprudence Exam
Another of the physical therapist certification requirements in Alabama is passing the Jurisprudence Exam, and you can also register for this through the FSBPT’s website. Once you do this the State of Alabama Board of Physical Therapy will approve you to take the exam.
The Jurisprudence Exam is comprised of 50 multiple-choice questions for which you will have one hour to complete. Your knowledge of the following will be assessed:
- Alabama Physical Therapy Practice Act
- Alabama Administrative Code
Step 3: Apply for PT/PTA Licensure
A complete PT or PTA application will include the following, which should be sent to the State of Alabama Board of Physical Therapy; 100 No. Union Street, Suite 724; Montgomery, AL 36160-5040:
- Citizenship Verification Form
- $110 application fee
- Two Character Reference Forms
- Certification of Physical Therapy Education Form
- Application for Licensure
You will also need to arrange for the following items to be sent to the Board of Physical Therapy:
- Your official transcripts from your PT/PTA education program
- NPTE exam results
If you are a licensed PT/PTA in your home state and are moving to Alabama, you will need to follow these preceding instructions and replace the Application for Licensure with an Application for Out-of-State Endorsement.
Step 4: Maintain Your License
You will need to renew your physical therapy or physical therapy assistant license every year by October 1st. The fee for this is $70 and $50, respectively. To be eligible for renewal, you will need to complete 10 hours of approved continuing education each year, and you are allowed to accrue extra hours to be used for a maximum of one year in advance. If you renew online you will only need to submit proof of your continuing education if you are randomly audited. If you renew with a paper renewal application you will need to submit a certificate of completion that will be issued by your continuing education provider.
You can find additional helpful PT and PTA resources through agencies such as: