Massage Therapy Training
Congratulations on deciding to learn more about being a massage therapist!
This is an amazing field that continues to grow across North America at a rapid pace making massage therapists in high demand. Please use the side navigation bar to find articles about massage and massage therapy that are relevant to your interests, or continue below for state specific information.
Obtaining a license is necessary in most states and each state has different requirements. Click on your state (provinces coming soon) below or scroll down for more on certification.
How Are Massage Therapists Licensed
To become a licensed massage therapist you must fulfill all the requirements in both your state and town/county if applicable. While most states require you to be licensed to practice, there are several that don’t. On top of state regulations, counties and towns sometimes have special rules that you must follow as well. You can find the state requirements in your state or province above using the map or list.
In order to find any county or city regulations, you will have to either go to the ‘county seat’ (where the county government meets), or city hall for a city.
The most common exams that you must pass to become certified are the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) or the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM). These exams are multiple choice and cover the following areas of study:
- Anatomy, Physiology, Kinesiology
- Body Systems
- Professional Standards
- Complementary Alternative Medicine
However, it is worth noting that in order to be permitted to write either exam you must meet the following standards:
- A minimum of 500 hours of instruction as follows:
125 hours of body systems (anatomy, physiology and kinesiology)
200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, theory and application, in-class and supervised
40 hours of pathology
10 hours of business and ethics (minimum of 6 hours in ethics)
125 hours of additional instruction in an area or related field that theoretically completes the massage program of study
- Graduate of a NCBTMB Assigned School Code with a current valid transcript submitted to NCBTMB
One last note on being nationally certified; you must be re-certified every four years to make sure you still possess the knowledge you need. There are two options to do this: take the exam again or complete the following:
- 50 hours of continuing education (minimum 2 hours of professional ethics)
- 200 hours of therapeutic massage (this can be accumulated over the 4 year gap)
Other Exam Options
It may not always be practical for you to take the NCETM or NCETMB to become certified. In these instances there may be alternatives available to you.
The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) offers their own exam called the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination, or MBLEx for short, that is becoming increasingly popular for licensing. It is not as difficult as the NCBTMB exams or as prestigious, but is still a very reputable exam.
The exam is 2.5 hours long straight and has 125 multiple choice questions. Your mark will be scaled accordingly to your score from somewhere between 300 and 900 (a score of 300 is equivalent to a 0). If you get 630 or higher, you have passed the exam and have therefore proven your competence as a massage therapist.
The exam will cover the following sections (in order from most questions to lowest):
- Client assessment and treatment plans
- Benefits and affects of techniques
- Anatomy & Physiology
- Ethics, Boundaries, Laws & Regulations
- Guidelines for Professional Practice
- Massage History
Make sure to check whether your state accepts it or not by clicking on your state above.
Some states allow applicants to take the National Examination for State Licensing (NESL), which is another exam offered by the NCBTMB, but is not as rigorous as the standard accepted exams.
The requirements to take it are significantly easier, in fact you can take it while you are in school so that when you graduate you will be able to start practicing right away. Not too many states offer this, but if yours does you can think about completing it. You can always take the full national licensure exams later if you wish.