The PT License Process in Washington State

By Luna
The PT License Process in Washington State

Getting your license to practice physical therapy may seem like a simple process right? Graduate from your program and pass the NPTE (National Physical Therapy Exam), then you’re ready to head out to start your career. Well, there’s another step that may get a little tricky as it varies state-by-state: obtaining your license.

If you are looking to practice physical therapy in the state of Washington, we have put together a guide to help make it a smoother process.

Steps to apply online

You can begin by doing everything online through the Washington State Department of Health (DOH) site. You could also mail your application in, however, using the online portal cuts back on the amount of paperwork required to mail in and could help you to stay organized and submit everything correctly.

This process can be completed in under a month, but this all depends on how quickly you are able to complete the required training and submit the proper documents. The time it takes may also vary based on when the board meets to actually review applications, so take this into consideration while applying.

In order to apply online, you’ll need to do so through the Secure Access Washington (SAW) portal.

Step 1: Sign in to your SAW account to begin, or if you do not have an account yet you can register by selecting the “Sign Up” option. If you need to register, you will be prompted to create a user ID and password which will be then confirmed through an email. You’ll need to select the link in the email in order to complete your registration and login.

Step 2: Through SAW, you’ll want to add the application portal to your dashboard by selecting the “Add A New Service” option. You can then search for the Department of Health. After doing so, you’ll see a list of other agencies within the Department of Health. Find the one that says “Online Application Portal” and select apply. It will have you then verify some of your personal details in order to use the service.

Step 3: You can now begin applying through this added portal. It will request information on any existing health care licenses that may be in the database. From this point, you can select the credentials you are applying for from the list of applications or return to a saved application to complete it. If you decide to save your application and finish it later, keep in mind you only have 14 days for that existing application to be active in order to finish.

Step 4: Fill out the listed forms and pay any fees associated with the application once that is complete through the secure payment portal.

Step 5: You can add any necessary supporting documents to your application afterward for review.

Step 6: Complete the follow-up checklist that is provided to you to complete your application. This typically will include sending in your official transcripts and test scores along with other required credentials. You’ll want to have your university send them directly to Washington’s DOH, as well as have the FSBPT (Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy) send your test scores there as well.

Additional requirements

Be sure to take everything one step at a time and try to stay organized so you know you have everything you need in order to submit your application. You will also need to complete the following:

It’s important to be familiar and knowledgeable about the practice laws for the state that you are looking to work. According to Wren McLaughlin, a Washington-based PT, “There are some state-specific laws you should be aware for. For example, in order to perform high velocity spinal manipulations you need a special endorsement that you can apply if you've met the specific training requirements. You are not allowed to perform these manual skills in Washington State without the endorsement.”

Tips to make the process easier

Wren McLaughlin recommends to get your HIV/AIDS training and Jurisprudence exam done first to make the process faster and to stay organized! There are some great resources to help you submit your application such as the FAQs on the Washington DOH website as well as this online application video that gives an overview of using the SAW portal.

You can also reach out to the Department of Health by phone (360-236-4700) or email ( with any specific application questions. They are very helpful with clarifying details of the application process and as a resource to obtain your license to practice in Washington state. Best of luck!