Questions about Specialization

The Academy does not administer the exam. This information is being provided as a service. The academy cannot resolve problems related to specialty certification. If you have questions about your application, please contact ABPTS (American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties) at [email protected] or 800/999-APTA (2782), ext. 8520.  

Why is the cost of specialization so high?

  • The current cost of sitting for the specialist examination is $1300 (Application Review fee $500, Examination fee $800) for APTA members and $2370 (Application Review fee $845, Examination fee $1525) for non-members.
  • These fees go towards establishing the examination, reviewing the examination after the exam has been taken and setting the passing score. Every year many specialists volunteer their time to write questions that can be submitted as possible examination questions. These questions are written on the individuals own time or they may be able to attend a regional Item Writers Workshop with a group of writers. All of this time is volunteered by the individual.
  • The members of the Specialty Council and the Committee of Content Experts volunteer their time to then go through the questions for editing and make suggestions as needed to make sure good, fair questions are submitted and then added to the bank of questions.
  • Once every other year the members of the Specialty Council and a small group of selected specialists meet in Philadelphia to set the passing score. They volunteer to take time out of their schedules to meet for one day to go over the entire exam and review each question to make sure it was a fair and appropriate question.
  • Yes, it is a large amount of money upfront to sit for the specialist examination. Once you pass the exam, your specialty certification is good for 10 years. If you are a member of the APTA that’s only $130 per year to have this recognition.

 What does specialization do for me?

  • In general, the benefits of specialization go towards demonstrating to your patients, your peers and the medical community that you have done the due diligence of going that next step in your education and treatment skills to care for a special population of patients.
  • Specialization shows that you have a drive to advance and succeed in an area you have shown a great deal of interest in.
  • In some cases employers will pay to have an employee go through the process. In other cases those that have passed the specialist exam have been given bonuses and/or promoted by their employer.
  • Specialization can also open other opportunities for employment such as teaching or consultation.
  • In the future there may come a time that reimbursement payment may be similar to that of physician specialists. It may be that specialist would be reimbursed more than the non-specialist who may be paid less, or not at all.

 Isn’t the CCS more geared towards, and focuses on, outpatient rehab? 

  • No. While many CCS’s work in an outpatient environment, there are also an equal amount that work in the inpatient setting.
  • As the length-of-stay continues to decrease and more patients are discharged earlier than in the recent past, CCS’s are regularly in the ICU and step-down settings seeing patients. The importance of early intervention with such a limited time-frame speaks to the importance of having a specialist seeing these patients.
  • The home health setting is also becoming an area where CCS’s are also being seen more frequently.
  • Specialization can demonstrate a commitment to cardiovascular and pulmonary care beyond the basic levels in all of these settings.

 I haven’t had any research published. How can I meet the research component of applying for the CCS?

  • If you’ve published a paper in the field of cardiovascular and pulmonary physical therapy you will likely meet the research requirement.
  • However, there are other ways to meet the requirement. For example:
    • If you did a platform or poster presentation at a state or national conference you may meet the research requirement
    • If you assisted the author of a research paper (i.e. you collected data, developed the tool used to perform the research, interviewed subjects for the research project, etc.) you may meet the research requirement.
  • The advice is to submit what you can in regards to your involvement in a research project along with any supporting information such as an abstract of your presentation or a written letter from the lead author of the research project you were involved in. The information will be reviewed and you will be notified if it is acceptable or if more information is needed.