This post may contain affiliate links or codes. This won’t increase your cost, but it helps keep TNCPT alive, and free of annoying ads! Thank you for your support. 🙂
Should I renew my PT license if I leave patient care?
So you’ve decided to leave patient care, and you might even have a non-clinical job lined up. Congrats on the big life change, and best of luck with your new endeavors! But with the change comes some questions about what to do about CEUs, licensure, professional membership, and more. You’re probably wondering whether you should let your physical therapy (or occupational therapy) license lapse.
It’s pretty tempting to do exactly that. After all, if you’re not going to stay in direct patient care, why pay the money? We all know that continuing education can be expensive and inconvenient, and you might not use many of the clinical concepts ever again, right?
But I implore you: please renew your PT license. This article will do its best to convince you that renewal is the right move 🙂
Here are two reasons why you should renew your PT/OT license, even if you’re leaving patient care.
1. You might want to go back to patient care one day.
We all remember how hard it was to get that license. From the grueling all-nighters during school, to the brow-mopping NPTE (NBCOT, for the OTs) itself, that license did not come easily.
And that’s not even mentioning the fingerprinting, background checks, and other hoops you had to jump through to get your license.
While you may currently feel that you never want to work in patient care again, that could easily change in the future, and you don’t want to close any doors for yourself. It’s wise to leave your options open.
If you do let your license lapse and then want to renew it, it’s a much bigger expense, and a much bigger hassle to renew it.
If anything, consider putting your license into “inactive” mode (if that’s an option in your state), rather than letting it lapse.
2. Certain non-clinical jobs still want a current, active PT (or OT) license.
Quite a few of the best non-clinical PT roles do require an active PT (or OT) license. If you wind up in one of those roles, you’ll be happy that you kept your license.
For example, care coordinator, pre-service coordinator or clinical review coordinator, diabetes educator, rehab liaison, and utilization review roles all require active PT (or OT) licenses in good standing.
Don’t close the door to those high-paying and enjoyable non-clinical roles, just because you don’t want to pay for your license renewal fees and continuing education. You’ll regret it in the long run.
So what’s the easiest way to renew my license if I’m going non-clinical?
I’m so happy you asked! I’ve been out of patient care for about three years now, and I plan on keeping my license active as long as I can. I do not ever intend to return to the clinic, but I’ve found an easy and simple way to renew my license without breaking the bank.
1. Find an online physical therapy CEU source that has courses you actually want to take.
When you work at a clinical job, your employer will often offer a continuing education credit so you can sit in courses and learn new clinical skills. Those courses are much more relevant for a clinical PT than a non-clinical one, though! And those in-person courses are not cheap.
When I made the switch out of patient care, I realized it was all my responsibility to pay for those in-person courses. But I also realized I wasn’t going to use the clinical skills I learned in those pricey in-person courses, so I started considering using only online continuing education for all of my PT license renewal needs.
I have been using PhysicalTherapy.com for nearly nine years, and it’s still top of my list for when I’m renewing my CEUs. Gun to head, if I HAD to choose a single continuing education provider for my CEUs, it would be this site. Here’s why.
- Price. PhysicalTherapy.com is, by far, the cheapest online unlimited CEU option. You can seriously get unlimited learning for $99/year. That’s nuts. And, if you use my discount code below*, you can get a 13th month free!
- Searchable, text-based courses. Too many times, I have spent hours completing CEUs right before my license renewal is due. PhysicalTherapy.com has text-based courses that let me use my preferred learning method (reading), and then easily search the text to complete the exams at the end.
Lately I have been using MedBridge, and I believe they are another great option for any PT or OT who is pursuing a non-clinical career. Here’s why.
- Selection. MedBridge has the best selection of non-clinical courses that offer certifications. I didn’t want to sit through lots of ankle instability courses when I’ve been a writer and career coach for some time now! I’d rather watch courses on compliance, billing, leadership, and safety, and actually receive some form of certification that I can put on my resume. And I can take what I learn and apply it to my coaching sessions and content development.
- High-quality videos. I fly home to see my family in Texas fairly often, and those TX thunderstorms mean lots of hours waiting in airport lobbies. MedBridge is ideal for watching courses from the convenient app on my phone. I can get my continuing education done during the time I’d otherwise spend people-watching at the airport.
Wait! My state requires live CEUs for license renewal! Don’t I still need to attend live courses?
Fun fact: Another reason why I love both PhysicalTherapy.com and MedBridge is that they offer live webinars that fulfill the in-person CEU requirements that many states have in place.*
*Disclaimer: I HIGHLY recommend checking with your individual state to confirm that these webinars actually fulfill the requirement!
Also, keep in mind that some states have weird laws (I’m looking at you, Minnesota) that require you to have a certain amount of direct patient care hours in order to renew your license.
[Editor’s Note: We are working with the APTA to address these concerns, but please do check with your state to determine what you need to do to maintain your license. And please contact me if you have any updates! Thank you :)]
2. Make peace with the cost—and time investment—of license renewal.
This one was harder for me than I’d like to admit. I’m a frugal woman, and I don’t like to spend money on things I don’t need. I also don’t like explaining to my (supportive, but equally frugal) husband why I’m dropping hundreds of dollars on a license I won’t be using.
My advice is to consider your license renewal fee the cost of job insurance. If you lose your non-clinical job, your active PT (or OT) license is your safety net. You’ll be able to get another job in patient care, while you might not find another non-clinical role quite so easily.
So really, that’s it. Look at your license as an insurance policy for your employment, make peace with the renewal fees and time spent to renew it, and plan to renew it regularly.
Here are a few other burning questions you might want to consider when you leave patient care.
Should I renew my APTA/AOTA membership if I’m leaving patient care?
Frankly, I struggle with this one. It’s expensive to belong to the APTA, and I’ve let my membership lapse briefly a few times, simply because it was so expensive to renew it.
But at the same time, I want the APTA to recognize the importance of non-clinical roles in our profession, so I maintain my pricey APTA membership for that reason.
I like to see the looks on people’s faces when I show up at events and say I run a website for non-clinical PTs. Not to be a jerk, but to see how the profession on the whole reacts to an initiative that will help us fight burnout.
What if I’m a telehealth PT (or OT)?
If you’re a telehealth physical therapist or occupational therapist, you’ll have a different set of considerations. For example, the law at the time of the publication of this article is that a practitioner must be licensed in the state of care delivery (meaning the state of the patient receiving the care) in order to legally provide teletherapy services. You might wish to take advantage of the cross-state PT compact, and become licensed in several states.
If you have any other questions about renewing your license when you leave patient care, ask them in the comments below! I’ll get back to you ASAP!
21 thoughts on “Should I Renew My PT License if I Leave Patient Care?”
I’m a full time mom of 3 & have a degree in Physical Therapy but not licensed. I am thinking of going back to the career path but what are my career options in the non-clinical PT? I am open to teaching & being an entrepreneur. What are my chances?
In some ways, not having a license opens more doors for you. For example, if you’d like to practice wellness online, you’d be limited in your scope by PT license rules and crossing state lines. In your case, you could easily do this without fear of losing your license to these cross-state laws.
Teaching will be more of a challenge, unless you go at it at the community college level. Most PT schools want a licensed therapist to teach. You can also explore health coaching at a company like Noom, where your background will be helpful, but you don’t need the license to do the role. These roles are often remote.
Lastly, entrepreneurship tends to be the most lucrative and flexible, but it is a lot of work. I spend quite a bit of time running this site, for example 🙂 But I LOVE it. So if that’s your passion, you don’t need a license to go into it. There are all sorts of entrepreneurship ventures. I’d advise against network marketing/MLMs, as they are often TONS of work and you don’t make much money. You can also do something totally unrelated to healthcare, so if you have a passion for something else, you can explore that. If you’re interested in building and growing an online business, check out therapyblogging101.com. Chanda (of pinkoatmeal.com) and I are working to put together a comprehensive program to guide people through building, growing, and monetizing blogs. So if you like writing, definitely check that out!
Keep me posted! You have so many options! Cheers 🙂 Meredith
Hi…I’m desperate for some advise here. My situation is tough and I’ve been dreading the response I’ll get.
I stopped working as an OTR about 15 years snd never out my license inactive. I suddenly became sick after my second child was born and was bedbound for more then a year. I was I’ll for 11 years before receiving a diagnosis of Lyme disease. During those years it took everything to just cope and take care of my kids. It never occurred to me about my license…that’s how consumed I was. I also couldn’t afford to keep up with courses as medical expenses were piling up.
I am finally back on track after 3 years of treatment and desperately want to go back to work in home health. After all the schooling, state boards, etc I’m scared to hear it’s all thrown away. Is there anything I can do at this point to get my license back? Thank you in advance.
I’m so sorry about your health challenges. That sounds like such a nightmare of not knowing what was wrong for so many years. You can certainly retake the certifying exam and get your license back. You can also explore non-clinical roles that don’t require an active license, such as writing, sales, recruiting, marketing, etc. The key is to decide what you want most, and then make it happen. People often struggle with deciding what they really want. Best of luck and please keep us posted!!
Hello. I am current license holder of PTA. I am planning to move to Europe in next few years and do not know when I come back to states. My question is what are the requirement to keep my license while I am gone? CE course and renewal fee is the only things I have to do? Do I have to work at PT related job certain days of the year or 2years(renewal in every 2years)?
Thank you for your help.
Hey Sam! Thanks for the question, and congrats on your plan to move to Europe soon! Definitely reach out to your state board and ask what the rules are for living abroad. Each state is different, so you’ll want to check with your own board to see what the rules are. You can also reach out to the APTA if you’re concerned about things on a national level. Sorry I’m not of more help…this is a bit out of my scope of expertise. Good luck with the move! Please keep me posted!
I’m thinking the same thing about Europe. How did this end up for you? Any word about needing an active practice for moving?
Dear Meredith Castin,
How are you? My name is Brayden M. and I am so glad to find this website! This question is probably very similar to previous questions you have answered. Me and my partner are interested in becoming travel PTA’s. But first, I want to be an adventure tour guide. 1) Can I keep my PTA license (If I finished schooling?) even though I wouldn’t have work experience to eventually work in the field? 2) How much does it cost to keep/renew your license? 3) Is it difficult to find contracts at the same place that your partner works? Thank you so much!
Hey Brayden! These questions are great, but they are also state-specific, so I’m afraid I can’t help too much. I would recommend checking your state’s board requirements. Right now, travel contracts can be a bit tough to come by (given the coronavirus situation), so I’m not sure how easy it would be to get a contract with your partner. Generally, that’s totally possible, but many facilities are scaling back therapy recently. Best of luck! Please let me know what you decide to do 🙂
I am a young 50+ who had a license in PT and OT but hasn’t worked in 15 years. I would like to get back into it and am wondering like others if there is something I could do without getting my license and if not, should I bother investing in both OT and PT or pick one? This blog is great. Thank you
Hi Joanne! This is a great question for my networking group! https://www.facebook.com/groups/NonClinicalNetworkingForRehabProfessionals/
I’m a licensed PT with active status in both NM and TX living overseas indefinitely. It’s time for me to renew. I want to maintain my US license to give me options if/when I move back to the states. Do I need to continue renewing both licenses or can I let one lapse as I’ll still have a current license somewhere in the US?
Hey Jess! That is a great question to ask to both the PT boards of NM and TX. I would *think* you could let one lapse, but I’d definitely recommend calling someone at the board and getting an answer in writing just to be safe 🙂 Good luck! ENjoy living abroad!
Hi! I am taking a break from PT. I am in seminary, working as a caregiver, and a church. I want to keep my PT license due to hopes of starting my own healing business/ministry and want to be able to offer PT as part of my skill set. Minnesota requires 320 hours of PT work every 5 years. I called and asked them if developing, teaching and leading an exercise program for a church outreach program for older adults would qualify as PT work hours? She told me to read the description of PT in the Minnesota state regulations, which is quite broad, and to ask other PTs what they thought. I would also be modifying the exercises for individuals in the program as needed.
Thanks so much!
Hey Jen! That sounds like such fulfilling work…congrats! I am familiar with the fact that MN has more restrictive licensure rules. You can reach out to Beyond Clinical Practice for guidance. It’s a group in the APTA dedicated to answering and addressing such questions. beyondclinicalpractice AT gmail .com 🙂 Best of luck!
I’m retiring and do not plan on working as a PTA ever again. Why do I have to pay $55 to retire my license. That sounds like a scam to me.
I’d never heard of that! Which state?
I have worked as a PT for the past 25 years. The last 3 have been tough (for all of us!) and for a bunch of reasons, I haven’t fulfilled the 200 hours of employment required by WA state. I did not renew my license last March for that reason. If I am caught up on CE, do you know what my options are? I feel stuck. I can’t get hired without an active license, but need hours to be compliant. Do I just renew and try to pick up hours, or is there another route. Trying to network and figure next steps out. Thanks!
Hi Lisa! I completely get why the last three years have been a huge challenge. I hope you’ve stayed well and safe during it all. I would reach out to the WA state PT board to discuss your options. They should be able to give you the guidance you need for this specific scenario. Wishing you all the best!
Hi, I’m currently renewing my PT license in PA came across the question, “Do you maintain professional liability insurance?” I am not currently practicing as I stopped in 2021 to be home with my kids. I believe my insurance came hrough my employer in the past and am not currently employed. Will the board deny my application if I answer ‘no’? Do I need to buy liability insurance just to renew my license? I don’t want to let my license expire but that seems unnecessary. Thanks!
Hi Suzanne! I’d check with the PA PT board just to be sure, but I don’t think you need liability insurance to renew. Again, though, check with the board to be safe. Cheers!