Should you include buffer hours when submitting hours for licensure?

One of the most often-asked questions prelicensed therapists ask happens just as they hit the proverbial finish line: 3,000 hours of supervised experience (or whatever specific number their state board requires). They’re getting ready to submit their hours of supervised experience to their licensure board for review, and they wonder: Should I go above and beyond what’s required before I submit my hours, just in case some of my experience gets disallowed? In other words, do I need to include buffer hours when I submit my hours?

The short answer here is no, you don’t. You should submit as soon as you hit 3,000 hours of supervised experience (or whatever number your board requires). As long as you have used TrackYourHours or a similarly reliable method for counting hours, the chances that some experience will be disallowed are slim. Even in the unlikely event that does happen, including buffer hours doesn’t really help you.

Here’s why. State boards, especially California’s, can take a long time to process applications for license eligibility. During the time they’re processing your application, you’re likely still working under supervision. Continue documenting your hours during this time. In the unlikely event that your board does ultimately determine that some of your submitted hours will be disallowed, it is very likely that by the time you even receive your notification, you will have already worked enough additional hours to make up the deficiency. Such deficiencies are often quickly resolvable without moving you to the proverbial back of the line.

On the other hand, adding buffer hours can lead you to wait weeks or even months longer before even submitting your application. Resolving a deficiency or disallowance sometimes takes as little as a week; earning buffer hours usually involves much more time, and that added time rarely has any benefit. The trade-off simply isn’t worth it.

So if you add buffer hours and don’t wind up having any hours disallowed, all you did was delay your licensure process. And if you add buffer hours and do wind up having some hours disallowed, it’s still not likely that you actually sped things up — it’s much more likely that the time you spent building that buffer exceeds the time you would have needed to resolve the deficiency once your application had been evaluated.

Simply put, don’t wait one day longer than you need to in the process of getting licensed.

Ben Caldwell is the Education Director for SimplePractice Learning.