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Like any goal worth reaching, APTA Specialist Certification will challenge you.

You can be better prepared to meet those challenges if you understand the process before you begin your journey.

1. Get a Lay of the Land.

Everything starts with your application (due in July) and culminates with the exam (administered between February and March). It's a good idea to explore all the steps the process so you're prepared. Review the dates and deadlines for pursuing initial certification.

2. Learn About Basic Requirements — And Additional Specialty-Specific Standards

In order to achieve certification, you have to be a PT with an unrestricted license. But that's just the most basic requirement: Find out how many and what kinds of experiential hours are accepted, and explore additional requirements of specific specialties.

3. Focus on a Specialty's Application and Exam Process

Among specialty areas, there are more similarities than differences when it comes to application and examination processes — but those differences must not be ignored. This page offers access to more information on each specialty, including links to the individual specialty candidate guides that are required reading before you apply.

4. Submit Your Application

Once you understand what you'll need to do to achieve certification, it's time to apply. Applications are typically due in early and late July (based on specialty area), and your application can be expedited more quickly if you apply ahead of the deadline.

5. Track Your Application Status

The ABPTS specialist certification online portal allows you to follow the progress of your initial and recertification applications and keep up with announcements and deadlines.

6. Take the Exam (And Don't Skip Preparation)

ABPTS oversees a valid, reliable examination program that helps to ensure candidates possess the knowledge and skills associated with each specialist area. You can put yourself in the best possible position to succeed on the examination if you understand how the exam is built and take time to prepare by reviewing the Description of Specialty Practice for your chosen concentration. This page connects you with the important details. Once you've taken the examination, your results will be emailed to you by June 30, and then made available through the online application portal.

7. Congratulations! You're Certified!

Time to celebrate (we honor new specialists each year at the APTA Combined Sections Meeting)! It's also time to find out more about how you can best leverage your new credential and connect with the physical therapy specialist community.