Why Physical Therapists Should Get a California PT License

February 27, 2023


Megan Bebout


If you're a traveling physical therapist (PT), then you may know that California isn't part of the Physical Therapy Compact License. However, that doesn't mean that you shouldn't work there. Instead, consider getting a California physical therapy license and reap the benefits of working in the Golden State! Here are three reasons why it's worth it to gain your California physical therapist license and head out to the west coast.


Why Physical Therapists Should Get a California PT License


PTs are in high demand

Are you in the market for a travel physical therapist job? Do you love warm weather, sandy beaches, and fresh seafood? Then it may be time to search for a California PT assignment!

Chances are, you'll easily find one because physical therapy professionals are in high demand in California. According to job demand data from Projection Central, California is projected to have the most physical therapy jobs available in the country. And that includes opportunities for new grads.

This trend is driven by a combination of factors, including an aging population that requires more medical services and an increasing awareness of the importance of preventive care. Plus, California's Direct Access health insurance laws have made it easier for people to access physical therapy services without having to pay out-of-pocket costs. Because of this, there has been a significant increase in the number of individuals seeking out physical therapists to improve their overall quality of life and mobility.

With an ever-growing population and aging baby boomers requiring more medical attention, the need for qualified physical therapists in California is only going to increase. Obtaining a California physical therapist license can open new career opportunities and provide job security for years to come.


Like what you’re reading? You may like: Want to Grow Your Career from PTA to PT? Here’s How!


There are high-paying physical therapist jobs

Not only are you likely to find a travel PT assignment in California, but you're also likely to find a physical therapist job that pays well. According to Zippia, California is the highest-paid state for physical therapy professionals, including physical therapists and physical therapy assistants (PTAs).

Because of the state's high demand for licensed physical therapists employers are willing to pay higher salaries for skilled professionals who can provide quality care services. While the national average salary for a physical therapist is $73,070, the average salary in California for a PT is $107,684. Then, the median annual wage for PTAs in the U.S. is $61,180 and $73,150 in California.

Location can have a major impact on how much you're going to make as a traveling physical therapy professional in California. These are the top California cities for physical therapy employment opportunities:



Average PT salary

Average PTA salary


Salinas, CA




Redwood City, CA




San Mateo, CA




Daly City, CA




Sunnyvale, CA




Santa Clara, CA




San Francisco, CA




San Jose, CA




Fremont, CA




Oakland, CA




Part of why California has the highest-paying jobs is because of the high cost of living, especially in bigger cities such as Los Angeles or San Diego. However, there is a way to enjoy the beauty of California without breaking the bank — moving to one of its smaller cities. These areas tend to offer more affordable housing prices, utilities, and food while also having lower income taxes compared with larger cities. This makes smaller cities an attractive option for medical travelers looking to experience the best that California has to offer without sacrificing too much of their budget.

Obtaining licensure is quick and easy

It can take time to receive a state license, but California PT licenses may not take quite as long. According to the Physical Therapy Board of California (PTBC), processing time is approximately eight weeks for a physical therapist license applicant to receive their final licensure. However, on average, licensure is typically issued within three weeks.

If you're wondering about the application process to become a licensed PT in California, no sweat. Here are the steps to take on how to become a licensed physical therapist in California.

1. Create a BreEZe account

BreEZe is PTBC’s online platform that allows physical therapy professionals to apply and pay for state licensure electronically. Create a BreEZe account and fill out the application forms to get your PT California license.

2. Ask your school to complete the Certificate of Completion

In order to receive your California PT licensure, the PTBC must receive a Certificate of Completion, or P1E, in an officially sealed school envelope, completed by the school's registrar or program director. A P1E proves that physical therapy students completed a physical therapy program from a Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education accredited institution. This can include clinical or internship requirements or a Certificate of Professional Degree Equivalency (P1F) for foreign-trained therapists.

3. Complete fingerprint scans and a background check

Fingerprint scans are essential for obtaining your California physical therapy license. Luckily, you don't need to be a California resident or be in the state at the time of fingerprinting.

If you are a physical therapist license applicant located in the state, you can use Live Scan, which is an inkless electronic fingerprinting system that scans your prints directly into the computer. To use Live Scan, locate a Live Scan operator and make an appointment if needed. Complete the Request for Live Scan Service form and bring it to your appointment with a passport or state-issued photo identification. Once you're there, you'll pay the processing and preparation fees and verify with the operator that your fingerprints are submitted to both the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Lastly, submit a copy of the Request for Live Scan Service form with your PTBC application.

If you're not located in the state for fingerprinting, you can use a hard card. To go this route, send a request with your name and address to the PTBC. You'll then receive a fingerprint card and take it to an authorized fingerprint roller (pro tip: do NOT try to roll your own fingerprints because the DOJ will reject them). Once your prints have been collected, mail the card to the PTBC and they'll send it to the DOJ on your behalf.

4. Request a National Physical Therapy Exam (NPTE) Score Transfer Report

The next step to getting your California PT license is to request an NPTE score transfer report from the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy. Then, the Federation will electronically submit your NPTE score to the PTBC. Once the PTBC has received your NPTE score, they'll verify your existing PT licenses online, so you don't have to submit a hard copy verification.

5. Register for the CAL-Law exam

Lastly, you must register for and pass the CAL-Law exam to receive your California PT license. Register and pay fees through the Federation website. Once you’re registered, the Federation will email you an Authorization to Test (ATT) letter within 48 hours. When you have your ATT, you can schedule your exam at a local testing center.

The CAL-Law exam tests applicants’ knowledge of physical therapy laws and regulations in California. Consisting of 50 questions, applicants have one hour to complete the test. Need help studying? Check out these study tips!

Becoming a licensed physical therapist in California can be incredibly rewarding and provides job security in an ever-growing industry. With its high salaries and the need for qualified therapists, physical therapy is a great career path to pursue in California. Take the time to research physical therapy requirements and obtain your California physical therapy license — it could be the start of an amazing adventure!