In 1978, as a part of APTA’s efforts to establish a mechanism within the physical therapy profession for training and certifying clinical specialists, the association’s Task Force on Clinical Specialization produced a specialist certification program designed to give formal recognition to individuals with advanced knowledge, skills, and abilities in a specific area of clinical practice. To oversee and coordinate the program, the House of Delegates in 1979 appointed a Commission for Certification of Advanced Clinical Competence, which evolved into the American Board for Certification and later into the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS).
ABPTS coordinates and oversees the specialist certification process and serves as the governing body for certification and recertification of clinical specialists in the physical therapy profession. The board comprises 11 individuals: board-certified physical therapists from eight different specialty areas; one physical therapist member of the APTA Board of Directors; one individual with expertise in test development, evaluation, and education; and one nonphysical therapist representing the public.
In 2019 the number of physical therapists with a clinical specialty exceeded 27,000, across nine areas of specialization: Cardiovascular and pulmonary, clinical electrophysiology, geriatrics, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics, pediatrics, sports, and women’s health.