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Cardiac Rehabilitation Specialist Certification Information

Read details about professional certification as a cardiac rehabilitation specialist. Find out the prerequisites that must be met to pursue this certification and what topics are addressed on the examination. Learn about continuing education requirements in addition to job outlook and salary information pertaining to physical therapists, which could include cardiac rehabilitation specialists.

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Essential Information

Cardiac and cardiopulmonary rehabilitation specialists are licensed physical therapists who have met patient care requirements and successfully completed an examination in cardiovascular and pulmonary care. Certification as a cardiovascular and pulmonary rehabilitation specialist documents a significant amount of professional experience and provides credentials for continued professional development in the field.

The specialist certification process is overseen by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties (ABPTS). The ABPTS, which is a branch of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), requires applicants to submit their application materials and pay an application fee by July of each year. Criteria to maintain this certification include completion of a determined amount of clinical hours, current licensure and passing a re-examination.

Educational Prerequisites

Cardiac rehabilitation specialist examination applicants must be currently licensed as physical therapists in the United States. Applicants must have 2,000 hours of direct cardiac or pulmonary patient care within the past ten years; 500 of those hours must have been completed within the three years prior to submission of the application. Additionally, applicants must have participated in a cardiovascular or pulmonary research project within ten years of applying; written evidence of involvement must be submitted. Additionally, a current certification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support is also required.

Program Coursework

The cardiopulmonary examination includes questions from the following categories:

  • Evaluation
  • Foundational, clinical and behavioral sciences
  • Interventions
  • Professional behaviors
  • History-taking and systems review
  • Evidence-based practice
  • Tests and measures
  • Consultation

Career Outlook and Salary Info

Physical therapists were expected to experience job growth that far exceeds the national average during the 2010 to 2020 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Cardiac rehabilitation specialists will be in greater demand, as the middle-aged population becomes more susceptible to heart attacks and strokes. The mean annual wage for physical therapists, per May 2012 BLS data, was $81,110 (

Continuing Education

Cardiac rehabilitation specialists must recertify every ten years in order to maintain their designation. They must have up-to-date physical therapist licensure, and they must have completed a certain number of direct patient-care hours. Additionally, an individual applying for recertification must submit a professional development portfolio or complete a written examination.

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