How to Become a Physical Therapist in Hawaii

Last year the average annual salary for physical therapists in Hawaii topped $80,000. This is partly an indication of the projected growth the state will experience in this field; growth that will much more robust than other employment sectors. Hawaiian physical therapists and physical therapy assistants will have the opportunity of working in a secure and fulfilling career as this field continues to expand and offer increasing lucrative benefits.

Under the umbrella of the state’s Department of Consumer Affairs’ Professional and Vocational Licensing, you will be working with the Hawaii Board of Physical Therapy as you complete the following steps for licensure:

  • Step 1: Complete a Degree in Physical Therapy
  • Step 2: Apply for a PT or PTA License
  • Step 3: Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)
  • Step 4: Renew Your License

Step 1: Complete a Degree in Physical Therapy

The first achievement you must complete to gain certification in the field of physical therapy is school. The Hawaii Board of Physical Therapy mandates that in order to be licensed to practice in the state, you must graduate from a PT or PTA education program that is approved by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). There is one such program for PTs located in Honolulu, and there are hundreds of such programs for both PTs and PTAs throughout the nation.

Earning a degree in physical therapy will mean you have completed courses in the following subjects:

  • History of, and modern advances in, the field of physical therapy
  • Human biology and anatomy
  • Human body systems
  • Diagnosis and treatment
  • Ethics and professional responsibilities
  • Clinical practicum

Step 2: Apply for a PT or PTA License

Once you have completed your degree in physical therapy you will be qualified to submit the appropriate application
for licensure:

  • Applicationfor a license to become a physical therapist in Hawaii
  • Applicationfor a license to become a physical therapy assistant in Hawaii

Along with an application you will also need to arrange for your official transcripts to be sent to the Board of
Physical Therapy.

When you submit a complete application it will also serve as the key for you to take the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE). Once your application is judged to be complete you will be cleared to take the NPTE.

Temporary License
You also have the option of applying for a temporary license while you wait for your testing date for the NPTE. If approved you will be allowed to work under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist in Hawaii for a limited period of time. The temporary license is not renewable and may be issued if you submit the following additional materials with a complete application for licensure:

If you are already a licensed PT or PTA in another state you can apply to be exempt from taking the NPTE by submitting one of the following:

Step 3: Pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE)

The NPTE is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT), and registration for this test involves two steps. First you must submit a complete application for licensure with the Hawaii Board of Physical Therapy. Once the Board has ensured your application is complete and you are eligible to take the NPTE, it will notify the FSBPT, who will then grant you permission to take the NPTE. Currently in Hawaii the only place to take the exam is on Oahu.

You will need to pass the NPTE in order to earn your Hawaii license. The exam is offered in two formats:

A passing score is considered to be a criterion-referenced scaled score of 600, and both versions of the exam cover similar content such as:

  • Conducting a PT/PTA examination or evaluation
  • PT/PTA roles in treatment, diagnosing, and evaluating patients
  • Major human body systems
  • Professional responsibilities and ethics
  • Types of physical therapy interventions and techniques
  • Physical therapy options, tools, and devices

Step 4: Renew Your License

Your PT or PTA license will expire on December 31st of even-numbered years. You should renew your license online before this date. It is also recommended that you keep up with Hawaii’s current laws regarding your PT or PTA license. Recent legislation has mandated that beginning in the 2016 renewal cycle, physical therapists will need to obtain 30 continuing education units to be able to renew their license.

You can find networking opportunities, information on employment, legislative changes, and professional development activities through organizations such as the Hawaii Chapter of the American Physical Therapy Association (HAPTA).