I find myself coming back to the topic of licensure a couple times every year. Licensure is the great challenge and barrier to a much more free travel life. If licensure was centralized in one place, we could go where ever we wanted, when ever we wanted. Nurses have co-ops between states that allow transfer of licenses across state lines in particular states, but PTs are at the mercy of each individual state’s licensure office to grant access into the state in a timely manner. There are plans in the works to improve reciprocity between states, but it will be several years before we see any of these changes.
Yesterday, I was speaking with some other travelers who are just wrapping up their first travel assignments and looking to move onto other states, but struggling with licensure. I realized I have taken for granted the jaded nature with which I view getting new licenses that has developed from years of being repeatedly disappointed by state licensure offices. Here’s my advice, from my acquired jadedness, that should help your transition to your next state go much more smoothly.
Getting a license in another state is going to take longer than you think. Get started as early as you can. The more state licenses you already have, the longer you should plan for. For instance, Illinois takes 6 weeks to process anything, so if you applying to another state and have an Illinois license, you’ll need to get a verification from Illinois and this will add 6 weeks to whatever estimate you have for the time it will take to get the new license.
Snail Mail Verifications
Most states require you to have each state you have ever held a license in to send a verification by mail (yeah, real mail). Additionally, many states require you to send a written letter to them to get a verification. Does it make sense in 2015 to have to send a letter by mail to a state office to get them to send a letter to another state by mail? Absolutely not, but get over it, it is exactly what you have to do. Fortunately, there are a small number of states that are now accepting online verification – they will let you go online, print out that page that shows you have a license in good standing, and fax it into them. But, unless you have spoken to someone in the state’s office that says they will accept online verifications, do not count on getting away with this. The majority of states still require the pony express to get involved.
When you request verifications from states, follow up by phone to see if the verification was ever sent. I have had checks cashed for verification by states that never actually sent the verification. 2 weeks after I send out my verification requests, I will typically call the state I am applying to to see which verifications they have received and which they have not. I will then call the states that they have not received the verifications from yet. This can be very time consuming, but it prevents me from waiting around weeks for verifications to arrive that will never be sent.
Build in at least 6 months to get a license from California. I’m not sure what you’ve heard, or exactly what the state of California is telling candidates for licensure, but it takes 6 months to get a California license. There is a finger printing process, there is a juris prudence exam, and there is no lack of bureaucracy. If you need to be in California in 3 months, you are too late, Just build in 6 months for California – add six weeks if you already hold an Illinois license. 😉
The licensure process is there to protect the public from the worst of the worst, but the system is far more cumbersome than it needs to be. Don’t get all flustered by all the changes that need to be made to the system. Just know that with some patience and a little bit of paperwork, you will eventually get that state license you are chasing. The more level headed and methodical you can remain through the whole process, the less stressed you will be.
These are just a few simple tips on licensure. There are a few states that stand out from the pack that are better than others to get licensed in, but do know that your typical state licensure office is understaffed and will take weeks to do anything. I picture a cyclone of papers swirling around every licensing professional. If you want more info on licensure, click in the search box at the top of this page and type “tag:licensure”. Good luck!