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  • Writer's pictureJalin Coblentz

How Many Physical Therapy Licenses Should I Have?

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

If you're a travel physical therapist, you probably decided to become a traveler for one of two reasons. Either you want to make as much money as quickly as possible or travel, explore, and experience different parts of the country. Regardless of your motivations for becoming a travel therapist, you're probably wondering how many state licenses you should have.


Unless your state of residence is one of the 25 state members of the PT compact, you'll have to get licensed in every new state where you want to practice. Because each state has different fees and requirements for getting and maintaining your license, things can get overwhelming in a hurry.


You've come to the right place if you're a traveling PT, nurse, or other healthcare worker and want to find the line between too many state licenses and not enough. This article will look at the pros and cons of having travel physical therapy licenses in multiple states, what a suitable number is, and much more.


How Many Licenses Is Too Many?


Contrary to what you may think, there are no restrictions as too many physical therapy licenses you can have. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) and national governing boards, you can have physical therapy licenses in as many states as you want. Having said that, however, you'll drive yourself crazy if you have too many licenses.


While you won't have to retake the national physical therapy exam for every new license, each state has different physical therapy licensure requirements. This includes jurisprudence exams, state licensing exams, and continuing education requirements. You'll also have to get fingerprinted and pass a background check in every state.


Finally, the average physical therapy license costs around $200, plus another $50 to $100 to renew your license every two years. You'll also have to pay a small fee every time you send proof of your existing licenses to the states in which you're applying for licensure. You'll have to do this every time for every state, which means that the more licenses you have, the more it will cost every time you apply for a new license.


Advantages of Having Multiple Licenses


To help you decide whether or not multiple travel therapy licenses are worth it, let's look at the advantages of doing so.


More Work Opportunities


The most obvious advantage of having physical therapy licensure in multiple states is that it increases job opportunities. The number of jobs you qualify for could double or triple with every new state, which means multiple licenses will open up new work opportunities and experiences.


Multiple licenses are also advantageous if your home state is currently in a dry spell in terms of physical therapist jobs. In Florida, for example, job opportunities are much more scarce during the spring and winter than they are during the fall and summer. Conversely, in Maine, work opportunities are more abundant during the fall and winter than in the spring and summer.


More Travel Opportunities


The second advantage of having multiple state licenses is that it will open up more travel opportunities. Seeing and exploring the country is one of the main reasons physical therapists become travelers, so you might as well make it worthwhile.


The Chance to Make More Money


Being licensed in multiple states will open up more job opportunities with higher pay. To make the big bucks, though, you might have to take travel PT jobs where no one else wants to work. That's why Maine, North Dakota, and Alaska offer way more money in the winter than in the summer. It's also why southern states typically pay more money during the summer than in the winter.


Disadvantages of Having Multiple Licenses


While there are advantages to having multiple licenses, there are just as many disadvantages.


It's Expensive!


As we said before, every state has different costs and fees when you apply for a PT license. In most cases, you can expect to pay $150 to $250 for every new license and $50 to $100 for every renewal. Additionally, every time you apply for a new license, you have to supply a copy of each license you currently hold as part of the application. Typically, states will charge $20 to $30 to do this.


Therefore, if you're licensed in four states and want to apply for a fifth, that's an extra $80 to $100 out of your pocket.


Application and Renewal Hassles


In addition to being expensive, things get more complicated with every new license. This is because every state has its own licensing requirements and exams. Some states are very lenient and make getting a license as easy as possible, while others make it way more difficult than it has to be.


Continuing Education Requirements


Most states also have continuing education requirements where you must complete a certain number of continuing education units (CEUs) annually. If you don't complete these units each year, you won't be allowed to renew your license.


While it's sometimes possible to use the same units in multiple states, it isn't always. Therefore, if you're not careful, you'll have 100+ hours of continuing education units to complete each year if you want to keep all your licenses.


It's Not Always Worth the Money


Part of the reason that physical therapists become travel PTs is so that they can live in certain states during specific times of the year, i.e., southern states during the winter and northern states during the summer. As long as you're ok with not getting paid top dollar, this isn't a terrible idea. However, as we said before, states tend to pay the most during times of the year when nobody wants to live there.


You'll have to examine these pros and cons and decide for yourself if it's worth having multiple licenses.


What is a Manageable Number of Licenses?


Currently, Kate is licensed in four states - Ohio, Florida, Maine, and New Hampshire. We chose Ohio and Florida because we have friends and family in both locations and consider them our home states. We chose Maine because we'd love to travel there sometime, and the license was extremely easy to obtain. Finally, we chose New Hampshire because that's where the best offer for a new contract took us.


Sure, four state licenses are a lot to manage, and things get more complicated with each new license. However, it's well worth the trouble, cost, and hassle because of the additional work opportunities and money it provides.


Ultimately, everyone has to decide their own limitations regarding physical therapy licenses. Personally, we don't plan to have more than five or six licenses at a time. Having more than this amount of licenses could become overwhelming and difficult to keep track of, not to mention expensive.


It's important to remember that you don't always have to renew your PT license for each state. If, for example, you've always wanted to live in Alaska for several months, you can get your license, practice as long as you want, and then let the license expire.


That's the beauty of travel physical therapy. There aren't any rules saying you always have to renew your licenses. Remember, though, that it's cheaper and easier to renew your license than reapply for it if you let the license expire. So you'd better be sure that you don't want to practice in the state at a later time before letting your license expire.


Final Thoughts


Even if you're not part of the PT compact doesn't mean that you can't be licensed in multiple states. While the process is more expensive, difficult, and time-consuming, it's still worth having multiple licenses because of the extra travel physical therapy jobs it will afford. You'll have the opportunity to travel, explore the US, and make more money than you would be licensed in just one state.


So, as long as you can keep track of your individual licenses and stay up to date on your continuing education requirements, there's no such thing as too many PT licenses.

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