Foreign Education for US Citizens

As a US citizen interested in pursuing a physical therapy degree overseas, the following issues should be taken into consideration.

Applying to any school overseas requires the same preparation as applying to a school in the US, except that access to information may be more difficult and it may take longer to receive. You must contact the institution(s) you are interested in directly to obtain program information. You might consider using an international mail carrier to send correspondence you deem important or urgent. You should ask the institution(s) you are interested in to recommend reliable mail carriers.

Language and cultural barriers should also be considered in your decision to study overseas. Be sure to talk to a school representative and request as much information as possible about the program, how your specific interests will be met, and any other questions you may have about their institution.

There are currently only three PT education programs outside of the US that are accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). If you attend a physical therapy program outside the US, even one that is accredited by CAPTE, you should be prepared to be subject to the same requirements as other foreign educated PTs if/when you decide to practice in the US.

Additional information on physical therapy careers and entry-level education can be found in APTA's Prospective Students section.

Foreign-educated candidates for licensure, whether US citizens or not, are typically required to have their education credentials reviewed as part of the licensure process. This review must be conducted by a credentialing agency approved by the jurisdiction in which the applicant intends to practice as a physical therapist. Occasionally, licensing authorities may handle the credentials evaluation process internally.

Translation of your educational information into English may be required as part of the licensure application process. Before spending money on any translation services, be sure to check with each jurisdiction and agency requiring translation to ensure you are clear on the type/method of translation required.

It is through the credentials evaluation process that a licensing authority determines whether an applicant's education is equivalent to the education provided by an entry-level US PT program. For this reason, if you intend on coming back to the US to work as a PT, you should request course information from physical therapy education programs in the specific state(s) where you are interested in practicing in order to get an idea of the types of courses they require. Although physical therapy education programs overseas may be similar in their professional content, there are also general education requirements that must be fulfilled. In some cases, it may be appropriate for you to complete some of the general education requirements in a university in the US to ensure that you have met these requirements.

Please note that licensure requirements for foreign-educated PTs are subject to change, as are the minimal requirements for US PT Programs, so you should find a way to stay abreast of such changes while you are attending a program outside the US and be prepared that, because of changes, you may be required to complete supplemental education if/when you return to the US.

Finally, you should be aware that licensure boards do not always grant license endorsement or reciprocity to foreign educated PTs. Once a license is awarded, that license allows practice in the particular jurisdiction ONLY. In order to practice in another jurisdiction, non-CAPTE accredited program graduates are sometimes required to repeat the credentials review process and/or take another licensure exam.

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