Massage Therapy License

For massage therapists to practice, a massage therapy license is required in most states—and for a variety of good reasons. State massage therapy boards regulate the profession, just as they do most healthcare, medical and natural healing professions. State regulation protects the consumer who uses the massage therapists’ skills and expertise. Other reasons massage therapists need to meet state-set criteria and get licensed include the following:

  • Ensures their quality of training and education meets standards
  • That standards of competency are established and met
  • Allows states to discipline a massage therapist who is non-compliant with standards
  • Establishes a formal grievance process for dissatisfied consumers

That being said, there is no national standard for massage therapy licensing. Instead it is determined by each individual state, and varies depending on where you live.

Who Issues a Massage Therapy License?

Most states have a separate board that oversees massage therapy licenses, but in some states it is under the Department of Health. Your massage therapy program will tell you the specific department in charge of licensing in your state. Here are some examples of state regulatory board names for massage therapy licenses:

  • Kentucky Board of Licensure for Massage Therapy
  • Oregon Board of Massage
  • Connecticut Department of Public Health

What are the Steps to Become Licensed?

You’ll need to complete at minimum, a certificate program in massage therapy; most massage therapists earn at least an associate’s degree due to the extensive physiology and anatomy knowledge needed to practice. The program you choose should be accredited by the association required in your state, and should meet the minimum state standards for both education and hands-on training. Once you finish your program you can become certified, and then you’ll be eligible to apply for licensure.

What are the Prerequisites to Licensing?

In general, you’ll need to meet three requirements in order to become licensed in your state:

  • Meet the minimum education requirements
  • Meet the minimum training requirements
  • Pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) and become certified

If you plan on practicing a specialty such as sports massage or clinical massage, you should make sure you meet the training standards for certification in that area as well.

Examples of State Licensing Requirements

To give you an idea of actual requirements for licensure, and how they can vary state-by-state, here are a couple examples of what a state may expect:

  • In Wisconsin

    There are very specific requirements for schooling in order to obtain a massage therapy license. You’ll need to complete 600 hours of classroom courses, including physiology, anatomy, kinesiology, pathology, law and ethics, and business as well as massage therapy theory. You’ll need to take other courses such as CPR and first aid. Before you qualify for a license you’ll have to show proof of malpractice liability insurance coverage, a current CPR certificate, pass the Wisconsin Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy State Law Exam, pass the national exam, and pass a background check. You’ll renew your license every two years (in odd numbered years), pay a fee, and you must complete 22 hours of continuing education, including two hours of ethics, before renewal.

  • In Colorado

    You’ll need to complete 500 hours of courses including body systems and hydrotherapy, physiology, standard business practices, hygiene, first aid, and posture. You’ll need to obtain liability insurance and pass a background check before your license is granted. You’ll pay a license application fee, and you’ll renew your license every two years.

  • In Washington State

    You’ll need to complete a minimum of 500 hours to get your massage therapy license. You’ll learn the indications and contraindications of pathology, anatomy, kinesiology, theory and practice, and hydrotherapy as well as completing student clinic hours and four hours of HIV/AIDS training. You’ll need first aid and CPR verification, pass both a state and national exam, and pay a license fee. Your license must be renewed every year by your birthday, and you’ll need 24 hours of continuing education to renew.

As you can see, there are great differences from state to state so it is vital that you determine the requirements in the state where you plan to apply for your massage therapy license. Print or make a list of the requirements before you enroll in a massage therapy program, and verify that your school meets all the accreditation and coursework requirements before you enroll.

If you plan to move to another state in the future it’s a good idea to check that state’s reciprocity requirements for massage therapy licensing so you know in advance whether you’ll also qualify for licensing in that state. You should also make sure you have transcripts from your school to submit to your new state board, as you’ll want to face as few delays as possible to begin practice.


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