Massage Therapist Licensing and Certification

Massage Therapist Licensing

What Massage School Students Need to Know About Licensing and Certification

While there is no national standard to which massage therapists must adhere, licensing or certification is required by most states before practitioners of massage are permitted to work with clients.

Even if a state doesn’t require licensing, it is still a good idea for prospective massage therapists to consider certification, since it could lead to better jobs, build the confidence of potential clients, and keep the therapist in synch with developments.

Please be sure to check out our Massage Licensing & Certification Page to learn more about your own state’s requirements.

Massage Certification vs. Massage License

Though many do not realize it, massage therapy licensing and certification are different.

  • Certification is a method of ascertaining that a massage therapist has met specific standards of knowledge or ability. It usually indicates that an individual attained a specific level of education and experience, and has passed some type of test. The exact nature of these qualifications is left up to the certifying organization, usually a private, non-governmental entity.
  • Licensing requires similar standards of education and experience but it is supported by governmental regulations and is required by law. Licensing is administered at the state level or by a municipality and requirements vary.

Education and Training Requirements

  • Most new massage therapists must have at least 500 hours of in-class training under a qualified supervisor.
  • In addition to the chosen type of massage therapy techniques, courses must include anatomy and physiology.
  • Some states require even more education. New York mandates that students must have 1000 hours of training.
  • Schools may be accredited through the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). Graduates are automatically certified if the program is recognized.
  • COMTA is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education but this may not be accepted by all states that require a license.
  • All prospective massage therapy students should be aware of their state’s licensing requirements before they choose a school.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

  • Credentials through the NCBTMB must be renewed every four years. Therapists must have worked at least 200 total hours in therapeutic massage and fulfilled the regulations for continuing education requirements.

State and City Massage Therapy Regulations

  • Most of the licenses required to become a massage therapist are offered through each state’s Department of Health.
  • There are currently 39 states that require a massage therapist license in order to work as a professional practitioner.
  • NCBTMB certification is recognized by 33 states.


2 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Scott says:

    I have been reading all over the net to find info on licensing for massage in Michigan and have found nothing specific. Where do I do to get licensed?

    Thank You

  2. Vickie Beson says:

    In the Wisconsin website it is not clear. I have taken all my hours and am ready to take the state test. Do I take the State of WI test first? Where do I find the practice tests on line?

    Some people are saying as MT student needs to take NCETM or MCETMB first then the State.
    Can you clear this up for me?

    Thank you

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