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The PT License Process in Tennessee

By Luna
The PT License Process in Tennessee

How do you get your PT license in Tennessee? It's worth researching since the median salary for a physical therapist in the state is $85k per year, with some making nearly $114k. Moreover, demand for physical therapists in Tennessee is projected to grow 21% from 2018 to 2028, with 330 PT job openings annually. Even better, Tennessee is also one of the more affordable states in terms of cost of living expenses, like housing, groceries, and transportation. And since we're in the business of helping physical therapists grow their practice, we're sharing how to become licensed in The Volunteer State. Here are the basic steps:

Step 1: Earn your Physical Therapy degree

Step 2: Apply for a license through the Tennessee Board of Physical Therapy

Step 3: Pass the required exam for Tennessee

Step 4: Maintain and renew your license

Let's get started!

Step 1: Earn your Physical Therapy degree

To become a licensed Physical Therapist in Tennessee, you must obtain a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from an accredited school. Schools must be accredited through CAPTE (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education.) As of this writing, the current list of accredited schools in Tennessee are: 

Before enrolling in a DPT program, you must first earn a bachelor's degree, ideally with a major in health sciences. A Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program typically takes three to four years to complete.

Step 2: Apply for a license through the Tennessee Board of Physical Therapy

The Tennessee Board of Physical Therapy is the organization that regulates the practice of physical therapy in the state. When you're ready to apply to become a licensed Physical Therapist in Tennessee, you must submit a completed online application via the Tennessee Department of Health online Licensure and Regulatory System (LARS). Note that the application requires additional items listed below: 

  • A recent, passport-style photo taken within the last 12 months
  • An original letter of recommendation attesting to your good moral character. It must be signed and dated by a Physical Therapist licensed in the US.
  • A completed and notarized Declaration of Citizenship Form with proof of citizenship.
  • A completed Initial Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire. (This is done online via LARS). Find it at the Quick Start Menu under Applicant Activities and choose the Initial Mandatory Practitioner Profile Questionnaire from the drop-down menu.)
  • Your official transcript mailed directly from your school Registrar to the Board. The address is: Division of Health Licensure and Regulation, 665 Mainstream Drive, Second Floor, Nashville, TN 37243
  • A criminal background check. If you are in-state, make arrangements through IdentoGo. If you are out of state, go to your local sheriff's office or police department to register your fingerprint card through IdentoGo at 855-226-2937. (Note: The OCA code for physical therapists is 2109.)
  • Payment for all fees (application, certificate, regulatory, etc.)

The Tennessee Board of Physical Therapy usually reviews applications for physical therapy licensure within four to six weeks from receipt. The criminal background check may take up to four weeks to be received by the Board's office. 

Step 3: Pass the required exam for Tennessee

To practice as a PT in Tennessee, you will need to pass the National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE.) This exam is offered through the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy (FSBPT.) The NPTE exam is a multiple-choice test consisting of 250 questions. One of the best ways to prepare for the NPTE is by taking a practice exam. When you're ready to take the official exam, take note of the NPTE eligibility requirements as well as the key dates and deadlines. You may register and pay online for the test via FSBPT's Customer Dashboard

Once you've registered for the exam, you'll receive an emailed Authorization to Test (ATT) letter from FSBPT (which is also available online on your Customer Dashboard.) Your ATT letter will direct you to contact Prometric to schedule a time to sit for the exam. 

Step 4: Maintain and renew your license

CE Broker is the official Continuing Education (CE) tracking system of the Tennessee Board of Physical Therapy. The Board periodically audits proof of completion of all CE courses submitted to CE Broker to ensure compliance with the state's renewal requirements. 

A Tennessee licensed PT must obtain 30 hours of CE within the 24 months that precede their licensure renewal month. Twenty hours must be from Class I activities, and ten may be from Class II activities. Also, four of the required hours must consist of Class I ethics and jurisprudence courses that are two hours each. Every license renewal cycle requires proof of course completion in ethics and jurisprudence. 

You may renew your Tennessee-issued PT license online via LARS within 120 days of expiration. 

These are the main steps required for obtaining and keeping your physical therapy license in Tennessee. For additional support, we recommend you contact APTA Tennessee, the state chapter of The American Physical Therapy Association. The organization is an excellent resource for all PTs in the state. From all of us at Luna, we wish you the best of luck. And remember – we're always hiring and would love you to join our team.