Florida Physical Therapist/Physical Therapy Assistant Certification and Licensure

Florida employs the third-largest number of physical therapists in the country, an occupation that is projected to expand by 36 percent nationwide in the coming decade. This expansion is due in no small part to the growing population of aging baby boomers, and because Florida’s percentage of people 65 years of age or older is well above the national average by 4.6 points, the state’s growth of physical therapist and physical therapy assistant jobs is expected to be even higher. Last year the average physical therapist’s annual salary in Florida neared $83,000.

As you research how to become a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant in Florida, you will be working directly with the state’s Board of Physical Therapy. Becoming a licensed professional in this field means you will need to complete the following steps:

  • Step 1: Earn a Degree in Physical Therapy
  • Step 2: Apply for a License with the Florida Board of Physical Therapy
  • Step 3: Pass the Required Florida Exams
  • Step 4: Renew Your License

Step 1: Earn a Degree in Physical Therapy

Your first step towards becoming a physical therapist or physical therapy assistant in Florida is to earn a degree in
this field. When choosing a PT or PTA degree certification program, you must select one that is approved by the
Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). Currently in Florida there are:

  • 10 CAPTE-approved PT programs
  • 24 CAPTE-approved PTA programs

Your physical therapy program will introduce you to the fundamentals of the human body and provide an in-depth study of:

  • Major organ systems
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Treatment and therapy options
  • Professional practices and ethics
  • Clinical practicum experience

Step 2: Apply for a License with the Florida Board of Physical Therapy

Applications for PT and PTA licenses can be made online with the Florida Board of Physical Therapy. For your application to be approved you will need to submit the following:

  • Official transcripts from your PT or PTA school that are sent directly to the Board of Physical Therapy
  • Proof that you have completed a Prevention of Medical Errors course, if not already taken as part of your degree program

Temporary Permit
You also have the option of applying for a temporary permit to practice as a PT or PTA under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist. To gain this permit, which is valid for six months, you will need to include the following with your initial application:

  • Proof of medical malpractice insurance
  • Proof that a licensed physical therapist has agreed to supervise you
  • Proof that you have passed the Florida Laws and Rules Examination

Step 3: Pass the Required Florida Exams

Around the time you apply with the Board of Physical Therapy you will also need to register for the two required tests you must pass to become a physical therapy assistant or physical therapist in Florida, both of which are administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT):

  • National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
  • Florida Laws and Rules Exam

National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
The NPTE is a national exam offered for physical therapists and physical therapy assistants. It assesses your knowledge in essential topics required to be an effective PT or PTA:

  • NPTE for physical therapists – 250 questions on topics such as:
    • Conducing a physical therapy examination
    • Range and basis for evaluations, diagnoses, and prognoses
  • NPTE for physical therapy assistants – 200 questions on topics including:
    • Data collection for physical therapy
    • The impact of effective treatment on different diseases and ailments

Both exams cover the topics of:

  • Professional ethics and responsibilities
  • Major human body organ systems
  • Therapeutic options, devices, and equipment
  • Types of physical therapy interventions

Registering for the NPTE is a two-step process. You will need to sign up for an account with the FSBPT around the same time you submit an application to the Florida Board of Physical Therapy. Once the Florida Board has determined you are eligible to become a PT or PTA it will notify the FSBPT, who will then allow you to take the NPTE.

Florida Laws and Rules Exam
This exam is required to ensure that you understand the Board of Physical Therapy rules and state laws as they pertain to physical therapy professionals. The regulations you need to be familiar with are covered in the Florida Laws and Rules Exam Study Guide. The test is comprised of 40 questions covering the topics of:

  • Consumer advocacy
  • Unlawful practices and disciplinary actions
  • Patient care
  • Management and usage of titles
  • Examination and licensure process
  • Florida Board of Physical Therapy powers and duties
  • Definitions and legislative intent

Step 4: Renew Your License

Your PT or PTA license is valid for 24 months, from December 1st to November 30th of odd-numbered years. You will receive a renewal reminder 90-120 days before your license will expire detailing how you can renew your license online.

In order to renew your license you will need to complete 24 contact hours of approved continuing education every two years. At the time of your first renewal this must include an HIV/AIDS course. 12 of these hours may include home study hours.

In order for it to count towards your 24 contact hours, your continuing education must be approved by one of the following agencies:

  • Florida Physical Therapy Board
  • Florida Physical Therapy Association (FPTA)

The FPTA can also provide you with information related to additional continuing education opportunities, as well as networking and employment resources in the field of physical therapy.