My guide to Studying and Working abroad Part 3 (Working)

My last two blogs focused on things to consider when moving abroad for masters. You can find it HERE and HERE. This blog post will feature things to consider when moving abroad to start practicing as a licensed physiotherapist. When I say abroad, I am referring to the countries I have worked in – The US and Canada. Ok, here we go-

  • One needs to be a licensed physiotherapist to be able to work in both USA and Canada. The US has a 250 question MCQ based written test with a passing of 75% called the NPTE. Canada has two tests- the written and the practical. The written component has 200 MCQ questions and the practical exam has 16 practical stations which covers cases of all aspects of entry level physiotherapy. It’s called the PCE.
  • If you plan to move to North America, prepare to start the process early as there are a lot of steps before you will be permitted to sit for the examination. This can easily  take up a few months.
  • To sum these steps in a nutshell, US and Canada would like to assess our foreign degrees and  make sure its equivalent to their standard entry level programs (DPT in the US and Masters in physiotherapy in Canada). If they find it to be at par with their respective standard, then one is allowed to sit for the test. If not, recommendations for courses are given that must be done by the foreign trained physiotherapist to be able to sit for the exam. All of this can take some time hence  start early.
  • For the US please refer to the FCCPT and FSBPT websites (in that order) for more information which is unfortunately out of scope of this blog post. You can find that information HERE and HERE. For Canada, please go to the website Canadian alliance of physiotherapy regulators for more information. It can be found HERE.
  • Make sure you have enough copies of your mark sheets and graduation certificates (multiple copies, sealed and stamped by your college or university). You will need more than one.
  • In my opinion,  to pass these tests, foreign trained physiotherapist must devote at least 2-3 months of full time study. Students graduating from american and canadian programs are trained to pass these board exams. I cannot speak for other countries but in India a lot of our tests are essay format written tests. It does not prepare us for the MCQ based examination that we need to pass to practice here.
  • Most of the exam questions require analytical thinking and problem solving to deduce the right answer. There are some questions that test factual knowledge and  our memory as well but predominately a lot of questions focus on different  scenarios and our ability to chose the best response with the information presented. Sometimes the answers might be easy to pick and sometimes more than one answer might seem correct.
  • Passing the american NPTE is quite straightforward, score 75% or more to pass. The Canadian exam is more complex, the passing score is not fixed and is set by the board of examiners and one must score more than the fixed score to pass. The candidates do not know the passing score that is fixed. You can read more about it at the CARP website HERE.
  • After one successfully passes the board exams, there are many different work settings to chose from. One could chose to work in outpatient offices, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, long term care facilities, schools as pediatric physios or provide home physio.
  • Average salary for a new graduate in outpatient care varies state to state (USA), province to province (Canada) but to give you a ball park estimate, can start around mid $30’s/hour. Travelling home care Physios or pediatric physios  have slightly higher rates.

I  have a few more points coming in the final part 4 of this blog post. Stay tuned and always

Pursue excellence

Abhijit Minhas


My guide to studying & working abroad Part 2 (For studies)

Continuing from where I left off in the last blog post here are some things to know-

8. If you are not able to secure a scholarship don’t get disheartened. There are a few other options like on campus jobs. They won’t cover your finances like a GA,TA or a RA, but hey, every bit counts right. In North American, this could be working in your college cafeteria, working in the gym reception or the recreation center of your university, library, student help center or coaching center. One gets paid on an hourly basis and we are permitted to work 20 hours when school is in session and 40 hours during summer break, end of semester break etc. Working off campus is illegal in the USA and if caught you could be looking at deportation. I’ll advise against it. Canada is more relaxed and allows off campus jobs with similar restrictions on working hours as the US. This could be one of the important factors to consider when deciding where you would like to pursue your masters.

9. Back in 2011, on campus jobs were minimum wage jobs fetching $7.25/hr. This might have changed now as the minimum wage has raised. Some on campus jobs where you tutor other undergraduate students in subjects like maths, sciences etc can be a little higher paying depending upon what university one goes to.

LIU blackbird basketball game underway at the WRAC (recreation center). A great place to not just play and watch sports but also a good place to look for on campus jobs.

10. CPT (curricular practical training)- is temporary employment authorization off campus that is offered in US universities which could be from 6-12 months while you are still studying in the program. This employment must be in the field of study. Consider employment under CPT as a regular job, you give the interview, you negotiate your salary. You are looking at much higher salaries (especially in our profession) compared to on-campus jobs but remember that one must have a physical therapy license to even consider this option. Also, most schools won’t offer them in the first or second semester. Depends on their policy, so don’t count on it when you first start school.

11. OPT (optional practical training)- is a temporary employment authorization offered mostly at the end of one’s studies (can be offered after one year of completion of studies as well). You must apply for it a few months before graduation, do not forgot to apply. If you do not, you will miss this very important period to work and gain some North American experience. It’s also a buffer period or a transition period between being a F1 student to getting a H1B if that’s the route you wish to choose. It is offered for 1 year and if your course is a STEM program (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) you are eligible to get a 17 month extension on your already 1 year OPT period. It’s called OPT extension. I know that exercise science falls under it ( I don’t think a Masters in physical therapy does, but I’m not sure about all schools) but make sure you ask your school before assuming. Needless to say, to work under this period as a physiotherapist/physical therapist you will still need your license.

12. Masters is physical therapy is not a very common course offered in the US anyways (very few schools were offering it in 2011, I’m not sure about it now). This program has slowly been outdated and replaced with a 3 year doctorate of physical therapy (DPT) program in most of the schools across the USA. Basically it’s the same as our BPT. For specialization in particular fields like orthopedics, sports, geriatric etc, there are many residencies and other courses offered by APTA but generally not a full time 2 year university course. (I did masters in exercise science. To know more about it follow my previous blog HERE). In Canada, there is no bachelors in physiotherapy anymore. Here, bachelors could be in psychology major, exercise science etc where you gain credits in anatomy, physiology etc and then apply for a masters in physiotherapy which is a 2 year program (similar to our bachelors). Again, just like the US, to pursue specialization in different fields, there are smaller courses and workshops but no full time post graduate program.

13. Some common questions that I get asked often are ‘what are credits?’. Consider credits as a form of unit. Every subject that one takes during a semester has a certain number of credits assigned to it (generally 3-4). To graduate one must complete a set amount of credits. To give you an example, for my program, I needed 36 credits to graduate from a masters programs and every subject was assigned 3-4 credits. Most universities will present tuition fee in terms of fee per credit. You can do the maths and calculate your full course fee.

14. Finally, remember that unlike our colleges and universities where the curriculum is preset for us, in North American universities you choose what courses you would like to take. There are core courses which are mandatory and then there are a bunch of elective courses to choose from. For the most part, you choose what subjects or courses interest you and choose which semester you plan to take it. Of course, your advisor will be there to guide you through the process.

Hopefully this information will help you to make a better informed decision when deciding what country and program you wish to pursue.

Next blog post will focus on physiotherapy as a career abroad and thing you should know before making a decision.

Good luck

Pursue excellence

Abhijit Minhas


My guide to studying & working abroad Part 1 (For Studies)

Deciding to uproot oneself and moving to a new country can be quite a daunting task, leaving loved ones behind and stepping into the less known. It requires courage and a leap of faith. However, it must be done, to step out of our comfort zone and to challenge ourselves to be able to rely on our own no mater the situation is a great environment for growth and learning. In this blog post I will share some tips that will hopefully make this journey a little less bumpy and ambiguous. In the interest of keeping these blogs short, I will divide them into multiple parts as it’s nearly impossible to keep it short and cover everything. The first two parts are for students planning to study abroad and the following parts will focus on physiotherapy as a career abroad. Here are a list of things to consider-

For higher education –
1. The language barrier- while most of us speak English well and have cracked the IELTS/TOFEL, often the local lingo can be a little different and being able to have seamless confident communication can be a big asset. Try to understand the local lingo and immerse yourself in their language long before you have to move.

2. When looking for other students traveling to the same school as yours (university or college is often called school) start early. Mostly all schools have FB groups of international students. It is an excellent place to start networking. Alternatively, look for contacts or acquaintances that have been to your school before and feel free to contact your international students office to connect you with other students or for any other help.

3. Common sites to look for apartments or roommates in the USA- craigslist and sulekha and kijiji in Canada.

4. Unlike ours, North America has a culture of small talk, use it to break ice with strangers in your class, mostly everyone is open and friendly.

At my school’s very own radio station studio!

5. Following up on the last point, explore and delve into your hobbies and use them to network and build a social circle. One of the biggest challenges international students face living abroad is struggling with having a social life and starting from scratch. Go out and network with students in your college who are not just from your country but locals and other international students as well. It took me a while to figure this out as I was a bit shy initially. Do this early to have a fulfilling school experience. Some good places to start are your school gym, international students office and all the programs they offer, college intra-murals(sports organized by the school for its students played casually but with league and championships games) etc. Universities abroad are like mini townships with a plethora of activities for all kinds of hobbies and interests. I strongly advise you to use them.

Bench press competition as part of intra-murals at my school. (I wasn’t competing if you’re curious)

6. Scholarships and grants- it is great if you can get them, it takes a lot of financial burden off ones shoulders. There are many offered, GA (graduate Assistant), RA (research assistant), TA (teaching assistant). In addition, you may even be able to secure an on-campus job which is the only form of employment offered in USA apart from CPT & OPT (more on that later). In Canada, rules are a little relaxed and you can work off campus with some restrictions on hours.

7. Let’s break this down a little further, a GA is offered to students in graduate programs (what we often refer to as postgraduate or masters). It’s more of a generic scholarship in which you may be given clerical office work by the professor or department that hires you like scheduling data entry in computers, file stacking (what I did) etc, all depends upon your department’s or professor’s requirements so such a scholarship does not have to be in your own department. I encourage you to try different departments in your college as this greatly improves your chances. Students often do not consider looking outside their department, the worse that could happen is a rejection. Smile and move on. A teaching assistant position is generally granted in ones own department and often depends upon your GPA. It involves teaching either undergraduate students some classes or/and helping your professor in your own class. One must demonstrate advanced knowledge in their respective fields to be able to secure this scholarship. You could also find it in different department like maths, biology, physics etc. RA is generally offered if you decide to participate in research as part of your studies and is almost always in your own department and field of study. Each of these may offer either waving your tuition fee partially or fully (unlikely) or paying you hourly or in lump sum.

I’m not nearly done yet, some more points coming in part two of the blog post.

Until then

Pursue excellence

Abhijit Minhas


Considering a Physio Career Abroad?


We are shifting gears for this one. I have received too many questions from students/physios aspiring to pursue Masters/Career in Physiotherapy in the US/Canada etc that I feel I have a duty to oblige.  It has also become extremely difficult to answer the same questions over and over again so I will try to cover some of the most common and pertinent questions in a FAQ format. Here goes-

  1. What are some of the best colleges to pursue masters in sports/ortho/etc physiotherapy in US/Canada?

Most of the colleges in the US offer a 3 years DPT program which is a Doctor of physical therapy program. This is an entry level program which means that this is the minimum degree of education that one must have to practice as a physio. So the DPT is like our BPT program. There is no specific university which offers just sports/ortho/cardio-resp etc training. Depending upon which school (college) one gets admitted into and upon the interests of their professors, there can be some emphasis on some specialization but all in all this program covers the basics that one need to practice physiotherapy safely. To get better in your preferred field will require you to take CME/CEU’s (continuing education), work experience working in your field, internships etc. Also, there are hardly any programs in the US that offer Masters anymore. Canada has Masters in physiotherapy but that is an entry level program as well and will mostly cover topics we have studied in BPT already. The Canadian masters is a two year program

2. Is Masters in exercise physiology/Kinesiology (KIN) similar to a Masters in physiotherapy?

No, its a different field and a different profession. There is a lot of overlap in terms of what we learn. However, we have a broader scope of practice than a kinisiologist/ exercise physiologist. While, passing the NPTE exam in the US and the PCE in Canada is a mandatory requirement to practice as a physio; to practice as a KIN/ exe. physiologist one does not require to pass a national exam. Some gold standard certifications which might give one an edge are ACSM, ACE, NASM, PES etc. An exception here is the CSCS which is required to practice as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. Please refer to my previous blog (Masters in the USA- Are you confused? Part 1) and MASTERS IN THE USA- Are you confused? Part 2 to know more about these fields/programs.

3. Can I practice as a physio after a Masters in exercise physiology degree?

You could take a masters in fine arts or business degree but as long as you have a Bachelors in Physiotherapy and pass the board exam you can practice as a physio.  YOUR MASTERS HAS NO INFLUENCE ON YOUR ABILITY TO PRACTICE AS A PHYSIOTHERAPIST (in Canada). However, recently US has changed its requirements to practice as a Physical therapist. Please check with FSBPT (Here) and NYSED (Here) for more details.

4. Is the NPTE/PCE very difficult?

While I haven’t given the PCE yet, it is somewhat based on the NPTE from what I hear. Yes they both are difficult but not impossible. Many international physios have passed this test. It requires a lot of hard work and dedication but its doable. The PCE has two parts, written and practical. The written component has 200 MCQ’s passing which one can appear for the practical. The NPTE is a 250 MCQ format exam. The hard part here for us is getting tested in a MCQ format rather than a essay format that we are used to.

5. What is the average salary of a physio in the US/Canada?

It depends. On a lot of things. Ones preferred practice setting, overall work experience,  North American work experience, language proficiency, interpersonal skills,  certifications after college, location, immigration status(unfortunately) etc. Pediatric physios working with children with disabilities in schools are  most likely compensated more than an outpatient physio. Depending upon where you practice salaries will change. Generally speaking, Physios in NYC have higher salaries than in physios in Idaho or West Virginia. Or in Canada, Physios in Alberta might make more than physios in Quebec. On the flip side if you take up a contract in the North Western territories up north in Canada where it gets very cold, you most likely have a higher salary than a physio working in Toronto. But to give you a rough estimate, a new grad physio or a new internationally trained physio can expect a starting salary of $32/hr as a starting point in both US/Canada in outpatient setting. Again, these number vary depending upon all the factors I mentioned above. I have added some links here to help you navigate this topic. Find them HereHere and Here. Again, at the cost of sounding repetitive, these are some estimates, use them as a guide.

I’d love to hear your feedback on this one. If I get a good response and more questions, Ill make this into a series of blog post. So send me your questions here.

In the mean time..

Pursue excellence-

Abhijit Minhas