I sometimes see other letters after a physical therapist’s name. What do these letters mean?

As the field of physical therapy has become more specialized, many therapists have decided to become recognized in their area of expertise by becoming board certified. PTs may become board certified in orthopedics (“OCS”), sports (“SCS”), pediatrics (“PCS”), women’s health (“WCS”) and several other areas. To become board certified, a PT has to either complete a residency program (these are optional mentored training programs that may be done in the first few years after graduation to allow a PT to develop specialization in an area) or prove that they have over 2000 hours of direct patient care experience in their specialty area. They must also pass a specialty examination that often takes many months to prepare for. Since board certification is optional, there are many exceptional PTs who are not board certified, however finding a PT with these credentials is a way for patients to know that their PT is committed to this level of specialization.

In addition to board certification, some PTs have advanced training in a specific technique or area of specialty practice through fellowship programs. For example, patients with orthopedic conditions who are interested in a provider who has advanced training in hands-on manual therapy treatments, might look for a PT who has FAAOMPT (Fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapy) or COMT (Certification in Manual Physical Therapy) after their name.

A few other credentials that patients may include post-graduate level degrees such as PhD (Doctor of Philosophy), DHSc or DHS (Doctor of Health Science), or EdD (Doctor of Education). These degrees indicate that your PT has even more specialized training, but these degrees are more academic or research-based and not based on clinical training or specialization.