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How to Become a Physical Therapist in New Mexico

The New Mexico Physical Therapy Board oversees the regulation, discipline, and licensing of all physical therapists and physical therapy assistants throughout the state. The board is a division of the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department, and is made up of five total members. Of the five, three are licensed physical therapists and two are public members.

The field of physical therapy has begun to see some growth in New Mexico, after a steady decline in job opportunities in the mid 2000’s. Despite the relatively new increase in job opportunities, the average wages for physical therapists in New Mexico are in the highest percentile, coming at $84,710. The job market for physical therapy assistants has been growing, increasing by nearly 26% since 2007. The average income for physical therapy assistants in New Mexico is $40,770.

In order to become a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant in New Mexico, you must follow these steps:

Step 1 – Finish Your Degree

Physical Therapist:

  • You must complete a post-bachelor’s degree in physical therapy in order to become a physical therapist in New Mexico
  • The University of New Mexico is the only college that offers a degree in physical therapy. The only degree offered is a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree
    • This degree generally takes 36 months to complete

Physical Therapy Assistant:

  • There are three colleges that offer degrees for physical therapy assistants in New Mexico:
    • Carrington College – Albuquerque
    • Pima Medical Institute
    • San Juan College
  • If you do not complete your degree in New Mexico, you must graduate from a CAPTE accredited program

Step 2 – Complete Your Clinical Experience

Before you can apply for your physical therapy or physical therapist assistant license in New Mexico, you must complete the clinical experience mandated by your college or university. Clinical experience will introduce you to the world of physical therapy and give you hands on experience in the field.

Physical Therapist:

The University of New Mexico requires that you complete your bachelor’s degree before applying to the physical therapy program. Your bachelor’s degree does not need to be in the medical field, you only need to fulfill the basic requirements set out by the department. The clinical experience at the University of New Mexico begins with an 8 week clinical in the summer of your first year. There is one other 8-week clinical and then two 10-week clinicals during your third year, totaling 31 credits worth of clinical experience.

Physical Therapy Assistant:

There are a variety of physical therapy assistant programs available in New Mexico, but they all have some sort of clinical requirement.  Clinicals for physical therapy assistant programs generally start during the second year of the program and do not last as long as physical therapy clinicals. In order to find the specific requirements for the clinical experience at your college or university, check their website.

Step 3 – Pass Your Examinations

In order to qualify for application as a physical therapist or a physical therapy assistant, you must pass the National Physical Therapy Examination (NPTE). This exam is administered by the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT) and is only available during certain testing times. You must score a minimum of 600/800 in order to pass the exam, regardless of if you take the physical therapist or physical therapy assistant exam. The fees for the NPTE are $370, paid to the FSBPT, and $25, paid to the New Mexico Board of Physical Therapy.  

Physical therapists and physical therapy assistants must also pass the New Mexico Jurisprudence exam. This exam will have specific questions about the state laws and regulations relating to the practice of physical therapy.
 
Step 4 – Apply For Licensure

Physical Therapist:

  • Submit your application for licensure
    • You must attach a passport sized photograph taken within the last 12 months
  • Pay the $250 application fee
  • Submit official transcripts from every college and university attended
    • These must be sent directly from your college or university

Physical Therapy Assistant:

  • Submit your application for licensure
    • You must attach a passport sized photograph taken within the last 12 months
  • Pay the $200 application fee
  • Submit official transcripts from every college and university attended
    • These must be sent directly from your college or university

Step 5 – Maintain Licensure

Physical therapist and physical therapy assistant licenses are renewed biannually by February 1st. The renewal fees for physical therapists and physical therapy assistants are $160 and $120, respectively. You must also complete and submit the renewal form before your license expires. In order to maintain your license, you must also complete at least 30 hours of continuing education during the two years your license is valid.