Travel Therapy Licensing Process 101

Travel therapy licensing process

Physical, occupational, and speech therapists who are new to travel therapy often wonder, “Do I have to have a state license for each state I want to work in?”

The answer, unfortunately, is YES! As a PT/PTA, OT/COTA, or SLP, you must have a state license for any US state where you want to work, in order to take a job there, even if you are just there temporarily as a travel therapist.

  • There are exceptions to this rule, such as for certain government jobs, when traveling with a sports team, or sometimes during a state of emergency. But for the most part, you always need a license in that state.

This can be a tricky part of being a traveling therapist and wanting to travel to new states to work. So let’s go over how this process works and how you can master it to be a successful travel therapist!

The Typical Licensing Process

Under most circumstances, therapists (like other healthcare professionals) must apply individually to each state licensing board where they would like to obtain a license.

Sadly, passing our national board exams for PT/OT/SLP doesn’t automatically qualify us to work in all of the 50 states. We must also apply for a license in the individual states we want to work in. (Unless you are eligible for a “Compact License” — more on this below!)

When you first graduate and apply to take your national exam, you will apply for your first state license, normally in your home state or the first state where you plan to work. This process is called “Licensure by Examination.”

After you get your first license, you can apply for as many additional state licenses as you want, and this process is called “Licensure by Endorsement,” because your first state endorses that you have a license in good standing, and gives you the ability to get any subsequent licenses!

To get licensed in each state, you need to visit the state licensing board for your profession in that state. For example, if you want to get a PT license in Hawaii, visit the physical therapy board website for the state of Hawaii, and so forth. Each state will have slightly different requirements, so it’s important to go directly to their website to see all of the steps to getting licensed there, and give them a call if you have questions!

Licensing requirements for each state usually involve: an application (paper or online), an application fee, and sometimes: a background check, references, verification from other states where you’re licensed, verification of your passing scores for your original national exam, verification from your school where you earned your professional degree, fingerprinting, and/or a jurisprudence exam (which is a test on the laws for practicing in that state).

Again, every state has different requirements, so it’s up to you to find out what all you need to complete to get the license there!

Compact License

Fortunately for PTs/PTAs, there is now the “PT Compact” which is a compact licensure that allows you to more easily and quickly obtain compact licensing privilege to work in another state. This cuts out a lot of the hassle and fees involved in applying to each state individually.

It’s very important to know that not everyone is eligible for the PT Compact. Only certain states are participating at this time, and in order to be eligible, your home state must be participating. I repeat, your home state must be participating. You cannot simply get a license in a compact state, then become eligible for the compact. For more information, please check out this article specifically on the PT Compact, and visit for all the eligibility rules and to see which states are participating!

For OT/COTA and SLP, compact licensure agreements are in progress, but have not been fully enacted yet. If you’re an OT/COTA or SLP, reach out to your national and state organizations if you’d like to help get the ball rolling to make the licensing process easier!

Does the Travel Company Help with Licensing?

Usually travelers want to know whether the travel therapy company helps you get licensed in a new state, or at least pays for you to get the license in order to take a job with them in a new state.

The answer is that, yes, they can sometimes help you with the process, but usually you are going to have to do most of the work to get the license upfront, then get reimbursed for the fees later.

In some cases, usually if you are already a current traveler working with a company, they can help you with the licensure process by taking care of some of the steps and fees upfront for you. But normally this is not the case unless you’re already working for them.

Most of the time, if you take a job in a state with that company, they will reimburse you for the cost of getting the license as part of your pay package for that job.

  • But, as always, it’s important to understand how pay packages work as a traveler. All the money usually comes out of the bill rate for the job, unless the company has a separate budget set aside for licenses. But the bottom line is, even if you are getting reimbursed for a license, it’s probably coming out of your pay one way or another. Always remember that the pay package is all one big “pie” no matter how the company “slices” it.

Strategies for State Licensing as a Traveler

In general, we recommend that travelers plan to have at least 2-3 active state licenses at a time, in order to have more job options in different states. If you only hold one active state license, you really limit your ability to find jobs as a traveler.

Some travelers will plan to wait until they get a job offer to apply for the license in that state. However, this process usually is too slow and does not work out. Some state licenses are fairly quick to get, maybe just a couple weeks, but some can take months to process, especially if they’re waiting on verifications from other states where you have licenses.

In addition, most jobs will want you to already have the state license before even interviewing you. So, this is why we recommend already having a few licenses before you apply for travel jobs in another state.

So this raises the question, how do you know which state licenses to get? Our recommended strategy is to talk to recruiters and other travelers to find out which states usually have a good amount of travel jobs for your discipline.

Unfortunately, there are certain states where you might really want to go, that don’t tend to have a lot of jobs. For example, it’s often rare to see many travel PT jobs in Utah for some reason. Whereas certain other states tend to have really good travel job availability, like California.

It’s important to strategize where you choose to get licensed. If you have 3 state licenses but they’re all states where there are no jobs, this doesn’t help you. If you have a particular region in mind, for example New England, try to pick the state in that region that has the most jobs to get licensed. For example, as a PT pair, we wanted to go to Maine or Vermont, but we found out there weren’t usually a lot of jobs there. So we applied for Massachusetts instead since they tend to have a lot of jobs, and we ended up working there, but got the opportunity to visit Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, etc on weekend trips!

The licensing process can be tricky, and unfortunately sometimes you end up applying for some licenses and then never get to use them and never get reimbursed for them. This is a bummer, but it’s part of the process. You’ll usually only be out a few hundred dollars, but you’ll greatly increase your chances of getting consistent back to back jobs when you want them, which limits unwanted time off where you could lose thousands of dollars by not working.

Maintaining Several State Licenses

The last consideration for travel therapy licensing is whether or not you keep the license when it comes up for renewal. This is up to you.

We usually let licenses lapse if we don’t think we will end up working there or going back there. If you go this route, you could always reinstate the license later by paying a fee, which usually is not too difficult of a process.

For those licenses that you choose to keep, you’ll want to make sure to keep track of deadlines, fees, and CEU requirements in order to renew each state license you hold. We personally keep a spreadsheet just to track the details of each license to make sure we don’t miss anything.

We also use MedBridge for our CEUs, which is a great resource to get online CEUs, and it has nice features which allow you to see which states your CEU course qualifies for and how many credits. You can almost always “double dip” your CEU credits across all your state licenses. So all in all, it’s not that difficult to maintain a few licenses.

Summary for Licensing as a Travel Therapist

The licensing process as a travel therapist can be challenging and cause some headache. But the time and effort invested in getting a few state licenses will be worth it in the end when you are able to have more job opportunities and explore new states! Hopefully with the insight provided in this article you’ll be better prepared to get licensed and pursue your career in travel therapy!

Check out the rest of the Travel Therapy 101 Mini-Series in order to learn all the basics of travel therapy, including: pay, housing, working with recruiters, tax homes, and more!

If you have questions or are ready to get started on your travel therapy journey, please feel free to contact us or ask us for recommendations for our favorite travel therapy recruiters to help you get started!

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

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Travel Therapy Housing 101

travel therapy housing 101

If you’re considering getting into travel therapy (Travel PT, Travel OT, Travel SLP), one of the first questions you might have is, how does the housing work when you’re away on assignment?

Does the travel therapy company set up housing for you, or do you find housing yourself?

There are lots of options to find short term housing for travelers, so let’s go over them all.

Company Provided Housing

If you’d like for them to, then the travel therapy company can set up housing for you. However, when they do this, you don’t receive a housing stipend, which is often what makes travel therapy pay so lucrative.

So you have a choice, either the company can take care of the housing for you, and you get paid less, or you can take the housing stipend, find your own housing, and if you can find housing for cheap, you get to keep the rest of the money.

There are some benefits to having the company set up housing for you. It takes away a lot of the hassle of finding it yourself and arranging a lease. Also, if your contract gets cut short, you’re not responsible for being stuck in a lease, the company takes care of that for you.

Of course, there are some negatives too. One is that you lose the housing stipend/leftover money. You also don’t have control over where they pick for housing.

Typically if the travel therapy company arranges the housing, they will have an established relationship/contract with an extended stay hotel system or some type of corporate/furnished apartments.

Occasionally, the facility where you’re going might be able to provide housing that they’ve used for staff in the past. For example, in some remote locations, like Alaska, Hawaii, or Cape Cod, they could have an arrangement with local apartments or cottages that they use for travelers quite often. Some hospital systems could have dorms or apartments they use for travelers, students, MD residents, etc.

Making Your Own Housing Arrangements

Most often, travel therapists will choose to accept the housing stipend and make their own housing arrangements. As mentioned, if you’re able to find housing for less than the amount they give you for the stipend, you can keep the rest of the stipend and consider it extra pay, which is a huge perk. In our experience, we’ve always been able to arrange housing for much cheaper than the housing allowance.

There are lots of options that travelers use to arrange housing, including:

  • Traveling to locations where they can rent from family or friends
  • Crowd-sourcing their friends/acquaintances to see if anyone has a place to rent where they’ll be traveling
  • Searching for short term housing options on websites including:
  • Searching for apartment complexes that provide furnished/short term leases
  • Contacting local realtors to ask about short term leases
  • Searching for extended stay motels/corporate housing
  • Checking with local colleges for housing pages/subleases from students
  • Asking the facility/HR department if they have contacts for short term housing that other travelers have used in the past
  • Calling RV parks/campgrounds to see if they have Cottages/Park Model RVs available for monthly rentals
  • Traveling by RV/camper, van, or tiny home and staying at campgrounds/RV parks, or searching for locations/private property that have RV site hook-ups

Considerations For Arranging Your Own Housing

Setting up short term housing can definitely be tricky as a travel therapist. There are some things you’ll need to consider to make sure you have the best experience.

  1. Watch out for scams!
    • Most of the time, you’ll be arranging housing over the phone/internet, sight unseen. This has always worked out fine for us, but you do need to be aware of scams. Go with your gut if something seems sketchy! Make sure to talk to someone on the phone before agreeing to housing and sending any deposit, and ask for references if necessary. Most of the time if you’re going through a legitimate business (apartment complex, campground, etc) it’s going to be fine. It’s the individuals on Craigslist/Facebook etc you have to be most concerned with. Usually if you go through a website like Airbnb or Furnished Finder, the business itself will have your back if there’s a scam, but make sure to do your due diligence and don’t get taken advantage of.
    • Some therapists will choose to move to a location and stay at a hotel for a few days before their contract starts, then use those few days to go look at places in person to avoid getting scammed!
  2. Try to get a month to month arrangement
    • Sometimes travel contracts get cancelled early, so if you commit to a 3-month or 6-month lease, you can get stuck in that lease and not be able to get out without hefty penalties and fees, or having to pay the full lease term! Ideally, try to set up a contract/lease that allows month to month rentals, or has an appropriate cancellation clause. Usually individual landlords will be okay with this if you explain your situation. It can be more difficult with apartment complexes/businesses.
  3. Shop around to get the lowest rent and try to negotiate!
    • Ideally as a traveler, you want to find the cheapest housing possible that still suits your needs. You’re going to save the most money to be able to put aside for paying off debts, investing in your retirement funds, or taking additional time off if you can keep your expenses low! For some travelers, they’re okay with renting a room in someone’s house to save a lot! For some, they really want their own space or need their own space due to traveling with a partner, family, or pet. That’s okay too, but still try to shop around and get the lowest rent possible. Often, if you explain your situation as a traveling healthcare worker, they might be willing to negotiate a lower rate than the posted monthly rate.
  4. Take pictures before/after
    • If you have any concerns about the location where you’re renting and want to be sure you won’t be held liable for anything, take photos when you move in and move out to make sure you won’t be charged any unnecessary fees for damages or things in disrepair.
  5. Carry renter’s insurance
    • This is good practice whenever you’re going to be renting somewhere, in case of unforeseen issues like theft, fire, water damage, natural disasters, roommate problems, etc.
  6. Try to find furnished places with utilities included
    • Everyone has their own methods for finding short term housing, and sometimes you’re going to find better deals than others. But in our experience finding short term housing, we’ve always tried to find a place that is already furnished and has utilities included. This makes life so much easier when you’re moving to a new location and will only be there a short time.
    • If you’re not able to find furnished or utilities included, try to go pretty basic for the few months you’ll be there. Some travelers bring their own furnishings, rent them, or buy stuff upon arrival. If you have to furnish it yourself, you can honestly get by with so much less than you think for just a few months! Same with utilities. Get just the necessities! It can be a huge hassle to set up utilities for just a few months then cancel them.

Bottom Line for Housing

Arranging housing as a traveler can be frustrating sometimes, but there are lots of tips and tricks to make it easier and have a better experience. We generally recommend trying to set up housing on your own, so you can get the housing stipend and keep the extra money. If you are really struggling to find housing for an assignment, talk to your recruiter/staffing company and see if they can help you, and be sure to reach out to your colleagues in the travel therapy community, such as in Facebook groups!

Thanks for reading! We hope this gave you insight to how housing works as a healthcare traveler. To continue learning, check out the rest of our Travel Therapy 101 Mini-Series!

If you have questions or are ready to get started on your travel therapy journey, please feel free to contact us or ask us for recommendations for our favorite travel therapy recruiters to help you get started!

Written by Whitney Eakin, PT, DPT, ATC

Whitney Eakin headshot

Whitney has been a traveling physical therapist since 2015 and travels with her significant other and fellow Travel PT, Jared. Together they mentor and educate other current and aspiring travel therapists via their website Travel Therapy Mentor.