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Why Hiring PTs for the US is 20x More Difficult than Recruiting Nurses

Yes, nowadays, hiring PT's or OT's (when we say PTs in this article, we also mean Occupational Therapists) for the U.S., and for that matter, other countries, is 20 times more difficult than hiring Filipino nurses. There are 3 major reasons why this is so:

1. There are fewer PT graduates than nurse graduates, and this can be seen from the decreasing number of takers in the PTLE (Physical Therapy Licensure Exam). In the last 9 years (from 2001 to June 2009), there were 538, 844 takers of the NLE (Nurse Licensure Exams); there were only 42, 320 takers for the same period for the PT exams. For 2001 and 2002, there was almost an equal number of takers, about 17, 000 for the nurses and the PT's. But in 2003, as the number of nurse-takers took off with the huge increases, the number of PT-takers dwindled. From a high of 10, 581 PT takers in 2001, there were only 1, 742 takers in 2008. In comparison, from a low of 8, 269 takers in 2001, there were 153,108 takers of the NLE.

Please see Table I below for the passing rates of PT's and Nurses in the last 9 years.

2. Aside from the decreasing number of PTLE takers, there are fewer people, percentage wise, that pass the PTLE than NLE. The passing rate for the NLE is a robust 46% in the last 9 years; it is a low 29% for the PTLE. It seems to be a tradition to give very tough exams for the PT's. From 2001 to 2007, the passing rates were 25% to 37% never higher. For the same period, the NLE was hovering in the 50% passing rate.

Among exams for medical professionals (Nurses, Dentists, Med Techs, Doctors, Midwives, Nutritionists, Optometrists, Pharmacists, Rad and X-Ray Techs), the PTLE has always had the lowest passing rate from 1995 to 2007, or a 12-year period. The only exceptions have been in 1995, when the Dentistry exam had the lowest passing rate, in 1996 (Dentists again), 1999 (Dentists), and 2003 (Optometrists). The rest of that period, the PTLE have that badge of distinction: lowest passing rate.

The only time the PTLE were easy were in 2008 and 2009, when the PT-takers were already a dwindling species.

Please see Table II for Comparison of Exams for Medical Professionals.

3. Aside from the dwindling number of graduates and low number of passers, the PT's also face tougher requirements for overseas jobs than their nursing counterparts. U.S.-bound nurses can take the U.S. licensure exams in the Philippines; their PT counterparts have to go to the U.S. to take the NPTE. That means that the PT will have to pass the IELTS (taken here), and apply for a visit visa to U.S., to be able to take the exam anywhere in the U.S. We don't have the passing rate for Filipino PT's who have taken the NPTE and the NBCOT, but we still hazard the guess that there are very few of them.

Those are the 3 reasons why it is more difficult to look for the Filipino PT's.

So if you're a company somewhere in California looking for PT's and OT's from the Philippines, think conservative. It is not your agency lacking in persistence, or your incentive money not adequate enough to motivate. It's just that the supply is not enough to meet the surging demand for PT's.

So, talk more about hiring nurses. It's 20 times easier.


1. All 3 exams are each given twice a year.

2. Data include first-timer takers and repeaters.

3. 2009 data is only for one exam; all other years, two exam each.

4. 2014 data have Special Professional Licensure Exam for PTs in Doha, Qatar, three exams for PTs.

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