california physical therapy license

Get Your California Physical Therapy License: A Step-by-Step Guide

You’ll want to bookmark this one! Whether you’re in-state or out-of-state looking to apply for PT/PTA licensure in California, chances are you’ve gotten a fat headache just clicking into the Physical Therapy Board of California website.

winter california physical therapy licenseI’ve done the dirty work navigating through link-mania and combing through (most of) the fine print; here’s everything you need to know – submitting your application for licensure, registering for the exams, getting PTLA status (located at the very end), and all the other tidbits in-between – streamlined onto one scrollable page!

Finally, get your California physical therapy license without the headache!

For brevity’s sake, I’ll only be using “NPTE”, “PT”, and “PTLA” throughout the length of this article, but all of this information applies to both PTs and PTAs. So for the PTA, just replace everything with “NPTAE”, “PTA”, and “PTALA.”

As a disclaimer, this information is current as of February 8, 2017. Also, as much as we strive to be accurate and current here at NGPT, you are ultimately responsible for double-checking everything! Please visit and familiarize yourself with the PTBC and FSBPT websites for the most up-to-date forms and instructions. If there are any questions, we are always happy to help. Just leave a comment below!

Additionally, California now has an online application system in place which means all these forms can be done online and paid for electronically: https://www.breeze.ca.gov/datamart/loginCADCA.do. Please note the steps below are for mail submission; however, you may still find this guide helpful. If you do choose to go the mail route, I recommend paying a little extra and having your package tracked so you can confirm its delivery to PTBC. (If anyone has experience using the BreEze website to file your application, please let us know in the comments section. I think it’s so new that schools aren’t aware of it yet and thus, current students are similarly not taking advantage of the online system.)

Stuff you need to know:

  • NPTE: National Physical Therapy Exam
  • CLE: California Law Exam
    You need to have passed BOTH the (1) NPTE and the (2) CLE to get your CA License.
  • PTBC: Physical Therapy Board of California – You submit your application for CA licensure and associated payments to them. They are the ones who will be in contact with you regarding your application status. They also communicate with FSBPT; when you meet all application requirements, the PTBC will let FSBPT know you can sit for the exam(s).
  • FSBPT: Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy – This is the national governing body that administers the national physical therapy and state law exams. You register with and pay them to take the exam(s). FSBPT receives permission from PTBC to send you the Authorization to Test (ATT) Letter (more on this later). FSBPT will also send your scores (both the NPTE and CLE) to PTBC so that PTBC can process them to grant you your CA PT license number. Also, it seems like different schools have different processes for setting up your FSBPT account. Look up your school here for further information: https://pt.fsbpt.net/UserJourneyMap
  • PTLA: Physical Therapist License Applicant – this is a provisional status that enables you to work as a PT under the “direct and immediate supervision of a licensed PT” for no more than X-number of days pending the results of your first try on the NPTE.
  • The players in this game: YOU, the PTBC, the FSBPT, and then MAYBE your school. I say this because my school offered to help us send in our P1E forms. Don’t worry, this will all make sense later. In any case, your school still needs to help you fill out that form.

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About Emma Lam

Emma Lam
Emma is a clinician with Kaiser Permanente in the SF Bay Area focusing on orthopedics. She admires the resilience of the human mind and body, with vested interest towards holistic health and healing. She earned her DPT from Samuel Merritt University in 2016 and enjoys the field in its entirety, with aspirations to contribute to PT education. Outside PT, she likes to spend time drawing, reading, playing with her bunnies, and staying active. Questions? Tweet her!

25 comments

  1. Bijal Toprani

    This article was really helpful, thank you! I do have a question though, I am graduating from an accredited PT school in Arizona in August and sitting for the NPTE in July since AZ allows you to test early. I am moving back to California in August and is where I want to practice as a licensed PT. Is there a way for me to apply for a license in California not as an endorsement applicant but as a new applicant? Can I do that now or do I need to wait until I have graduated?

    • Emma Lam

      Hi Bijal! Glad you found the article helpful and thanks for your question! I’m sure others are wondering the same. 🙂 To answer your question – YES! You can definitely apply for a CA license as your first PT license even if you are out-of-state currently. This is because you will be a new grad and you are starting the licensing process fresh. You can just assemble your CA license packet AS IF you were an in-state applicant (following the first section of the article). When you get your ATT letter from the PT Board of California (PTBC), then you can register to take the NPTE at any testing center (Prometric) close to you – doesn’t matter if it’s in California or in a different state since these testing centers are national.

      The thing that you might have to do a little differently is the fingerprint portion – since you won’t physically be in California, you will need to request a hard card: obtain a hard Fingerprint Card by emailing your request, full name, mailing address, and phone number to: Application_Material@dca.ca.gov and then just wait until you get the card. So, instead of submitting a Live Scan Service form, you will be submitting the fingerprint card and its associated $49 processing fee (check the extra box on the Fee Schedule) with your application packet.

      Hope this helps! If you have any further questions or need more clarification, don’t hesitate to let me know!

  2. Cooper Wardell

    This article is much more helpful than the guidance that my school provided, so thank you.
    I did manage to apply online through the breeze system and I will say that it is definitely easier than mailing lots of paper. What I will say is that there are some quirks with the breeze system. For example, the main application, and fee schedule are included online, but any addendums need to be either attached as separate documents or mailed in. If you are mailing in the addendums, it might just be worth mailing the whole thing. Also, the site is finicky about saving your progress so get your info ready and sit down and do it all at once.
    Also, the guidelines on what is an acceptable photo when attaching it via website do not make sense because electronic photos have a native LxW measurement but obviously this doesn’t matter. A 2×2 native photo file would be like a Facebook thumbnail pic with no resolution.
    Lastly, when I called to ask questions regarding my application via the breeze system, the person I spoke with clearly did not know the answers.
    ….so I will be a good test case for whether it’s a “breeze” depending on if I actually get registered to take the exam.

    • Emma Lam

      Hey Cooper! Thanks so much for sharing your experience on Breeze so far! That was great information. Please keep us posted though I do hope everything’s smooth sailing from here on out. Also, love the pun. 😀

    • Danielle Otto

      I just had this problem – I completed 80% of my Breeze application and saved it so I could take a passport photo, and when I came back to it 2 days later it hadn’t saved any of my application info and was going to have me redo it all, so I’m going to do the paper applications and mail it in via certified mail. Thank you for this helpful guide.

  3. Prianka Singh

    hi! i just passed last month’s NPTE and i am wondering how i can have my license transferred in California. i need to pass the TOEFL first and then have a Type I review through FCCPT before i could file for an application and fill the forms mentioned in step 3 right? or is there a possibility that i could do those simultaneously?

    • Prianka Singh

      And also, regarding the Work Verification Form. Should i look for an accredited facility prior to submitting those forms? I’m sorry i was really confuse the whole time i was checking the ptbc website. Im glad i found your article it made things a lot easier.

      • Emma Lam

        Hi Prianka! It sounds like you are applying from out of the country. I think the best people to ask are with the PTBC directly, but the forms mentioned in step 3 would be the same for you.

        In reviewing the site: http://www.ptbc.ca.gov/applicants/foreign_apps.shtml, it seems that you should get your credentials reviewed first prior to trying to submit an application. I would also think it would be a good idea to look for an accredited facility prior to submitting the forms for the work verification form.

        Again, I definitely recommend going directly to the PTBC, perhaps through facebook as this is certainly out of my realm of review as well!

    • Pinky B

      hi priyanka ,i am also transferring my license to california ,we are going through same process ,you can contact me if you need any help.

  4. Cathy C

    Hi! Great article, thank you so much for sharing it with us. Should I have my PT program send the Certificate of Completion (P1E) form directly to PTBC or have my PT program mail it to me (in an officially sealed school envelope) then I’d be sending it to PTBC?

    • Emma Lam

      Hi Cathy,
      You can do it either way. If you prefer to KNOW that your P1E form got sent to PTBC (and perhaps then be able to send everything all at once), then you’d probably have your PT program send your form to you in an officially sealed school envelope.

  5. Sarah Berko

    Hello,

    This article was very helpful. I do have a question, once I send in my application , for the fees do I submit one lumpsome check or seperate for each fee? Also- is it clear that the application processing fee is non refundable. Do you know if the others are?

    Thank you

  6. Nick Moes

    Hi Emma,

    Thank you for all of this information! Saved me a whole lot of headache.

    Any advice or resources for the CLE? Having a tough time slogging through all this info, which is made difficult because of the disorganized (and frankly dull) nature of the material.

    Thank you 🙂

    • Emma Lam

      Hi Nick!
      You are very welcome and I’m glad the guide was helpful!
      Advice for the CLE: I agree, lots of long technical reading.-___- What was really helpful was going through all the laws and just copying and pasting into a word doc so it’s all in 1 file. Otherwise, no real advice other than you gotta do what you gotta do and study!
      Lesson learned from personal experience (so take with a grain of salt), I would say you probably would be safer spending about a week (~5 days) going through the material. For instance, go through each document/section at least once, then go through it again a 2nd or 3rd time (or even 4th) sometime that week. There are a lot of little nitty gritty details you may be asked…which yes, hard to memorize, but if you are at least familiar with the material and digested the information, it may be easier to identify the wrong answers and pick based on process of elimination.
      I don’t think I really prepared enough. I think I maybe spent ~3 hours just to read through everything once 2 days before and then did it again one more time the day before the exam. Though I ended up passing, the exam felt difficult at the time. I think if I had given myself a few more days, I would’ve felt more confident in my answers.

  7. Devon Foster

    Hello!
    I’m glad I stumbled upon this post! I am hoping you can help me figure out more about being awarded PTLA status. I have turned in my application to PTBC and have registered and paid for the NPTE on FSBPT, but I have not gotten my ATT to schedule the exam yet. I turned all of this in in the beginning of October and received an email about two weeks ago that my application has been received. They attached a letter saying that I have been awarded PTLA status and that it is effective November 2. Does this mean I can start working as a PTLA? Or will I need to wait for the ATT? Is there a temporary license number that I would be working under?
    Thanks!

    • Emma Lam

      Hi Devon! Thanks for the question and I’m glad the you found this post! Yes, the receipt of that letter means you can start working as a PTLA. It serves as your temporary ‘license’. You usually have to bring this paper in and the place you work for will make a copy of it. You can work as a PTLA for x-number of days (it’ll say in the letter) with this letter. The ATT letter is just your permission to go sit for the exam!

  8. B T

    Hey, do you remember how many days after taking the CLE that you got your results? Also what is a passing score to that exam, i assume 80%?

    Thanks!

    • Emma Lam

      Hi there! Apologies for the tardy response. I want to say I was notified immediately after I took the exam on the computer. And I’m not sure what the passing score is as that wasn’t provided to me. Perhaps another reader here has input?

  9. Ron Barbaza

    Hello Emma, thank you for the great information. I do have a question in regards to the fingerprint card. So I received it from the state of Ca the other day but with no instruction as to what to do with it.
    1. Do I need to go to a special place to get the prints done?
    2. Once done do I send the whole card back with a check for the fees?
    Thanks

  10. Deandean A

    hi,
    I live in LA and waiting for my PTLA approval now after my endorsement application from NY license to work here in CA. I just wonder what will happen to my license in NY if I get PTLA approval. Can I still work as a PT in NY in case i decided to move back to there? I need help with this, please advice.

    Thanks!

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