Earning a Massage Therapy Certification vs. License

The practice of massage therapy is focused on the promotion of a healthy body and mind. Through the physical manipulation of muscles and soft tissues, massage therapists aim to address a variety of problems that plague the body, such as injuries or pain. The training they undergo to become a working massage therapist teaches them to increase relaxation and relieve stress within the clients that they aid.

With massage therapy having the ability to impact an individual’s life in such a positive way, many people research various massage therapists before they begin working with one. Clients want to see that a massage therapist is qualified and knowledgeable. Earning a certification or a license are two ways you can demonstrate your qualifications to future clients.

What is a Massage Therapy License?

A massage therapy license is a state’s way of indicating to your potential clients that you are an approved massage therapist.

The most important thing to remember about a massage therapy license is that most states have their own licensing board. That means that the requirements you will need to meet in order to earn your license as a massage therapist will vary depending on what state you seek to work in.

Earning a license in most states means that you will need to take and pass an examination that is offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). The exam is known as the MBLEx or Massage and Body Licensing Examination. The MBLEx is an entry-level exam.

Although the MBLEx is entry-level, there are still educational requirements you must meet in order to qualify to take the exam. In fact, as of July 1, 2017 the FSMTB will require all exam applicants to provide proof of completion of an approved massage therapy program. The proof must be sent to the FSMTB directly from the massage therapy education program that you completed.

Before you begin your path to a career in massage therapy, be sure to check what regulations your state has in place, as they may affect your ability to obtain a massage therapy license.

What is a Massage Therapy Certification?

A massage therapy certification is a way to show commitment to your career and to your clients. A certification is not always required to become a massage therapist.

Earning a certification in massage therapy verifies your advanced knowledge and practical skills as a massage therapist. Because of this, a certification can be extremely beneficial for those who already work in the field of massage therapy and wish to advance their careers.

A certification may not be an appealing option for those who wish to start their massage therapy career at the entry-level. However, earning a massage therapy certification is highly suggested for those who wish to apply to higher paying jobs. These positions often require applicants to have a certification.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is the leader in massage therapy certification. They offer a Board Certification that is recognized across the nation. Earning a Board Certification requires the following:

  • Pass the Board Certification Exam
  • 750 hours of approved education
  • 250 hours of approved, hands-on experience
  • Pass a criminal background check

Certification vs. Licensure

Certification is voluntary Often required by state, depending on board requirements for massage therapists
Educational requirements must be met Educational requirements must be met
Advanced knowledge exam must be passed Entry-level exam must be passed
Typically earned to advance a massage therapy career Typically earned to begin a massage therapy practice

Whether you seek to earn a license or certification in massage therapy, you should anticipate needing to complete a massage therapy program. A program in massage therapy gives you the knowledge and experience that are needed to earn a certification or license.


Tell us a little about yourself and we'll connect you with schools that offer massage therapy degree programs.