Massage Therapy Certification

massage therapist certification

Massage therapy certification is a voluntary professional credential. It is earned after meeting specific education requirements and passing a certification examination. Professionals who have massage therapy certification have demonstrated that they possess education and expertise beyond entry-level licensure requirements.

What’s the difference between a massage therapy certificate and massage therapy certification?

Massage therapy certification often is confused with a massage therapy certificate. While they both can be important factors in reaching your goal to become a massage therapist, you should understand the difference before you plan your career path in massage therapy.


A massage therapy certificate is a specific type of educational program that can be the first step in your career as a massage therapist.

Curriculum typically is streamlined to concentrate on basic massage techniques, human anatomy and professional ethics. Most programs include hands-on massage therapy training. Earning a massage therapy certificate can be the fastest and least expensive route to starting a career in massage therapy.


Massage therapy certification is a designation that can be pursued after the completion of a massage therapy certificate.

Certification is awarded after meeting the specific conditions of a certifying organization. These requirements typically include a set number of classroom hours, hands-on experience and successful completion of an examination. Massage therapy certification is comparable to other professional certifications in that it shows a superior level of knowledge and experience to employers and clients. Once earned, certification typically is maintained or renewed by completing specified professional education criteria.

How do I obtain massage therapy certification?

Massage Therapy Certification can be obtained from the following organizations:

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)

The NCBTMB is the primary credentialing organization for general massage therapy certification. NCBTMB certification allows massage therapists to use the Board Certified Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB) designation. To earn massage therapy certification, candidates must do the following:

  • Pass the 160-question, multiple-choice Board Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (BCETMB)
  • Complete 750 education hours, which must include classroom hours in a massage therapy program from an NCBTMB-assigned school in good standing, and can include:
    1. Continuing education hours from an NCBTMB-approved provider
    2. Any courses completed at any accredited college or university
  • Complete 250 hours of professional, hands-on experience, which must include:
    1. Hours completed after graduation from a massage therapy program while practicing legally in your state
    2. Proof of licensure in the state/municipalities at the time the hours were completed
  • Submit to a thorough criminal background check by NCBTMB
  • Commit to uphold NCBTMB’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
  • Confirm agreement to oppose human trafficking

American Medical Massage Association (AMMA)

The AMMA provides certification for massage therapists who specialize in the administration of medical massage. Examinations are administered by the National Board Certification Agency (NBCA), the testing arm of the AMMA. Two levels of examination are offered:

NBCA Massage Therapy Certification Examination

Requirements for this examination include:

  • Completion of a minimum of 600 hours of supervised instruction in an accredited massage therapy program
  • Minimum classroom hours in specified courses including physiology, massage theory, ethics and a clinical practicum
  • Membership in the AMMA

NBCA Board Certified Diplomate Examination in Manual Therapy

Requirements for this advanced examination include:

  • A minimum of 2,400 training hours
  • Knowledge of musculoskeletal anatomy and physiology
  • Advanced understanding of soft tissue pathology and soft tissue injuries

American Reflexology Certification Board (ARCB)

The ARCB is an independent testing agency for the field of reflexology. The ARCB offers two tests:

  • National Reflexology – Foot Exam
  • National Reflexology – Hand Exam

Candidates for this specialized type of massage therapy certification must be graduates of a reflexology course that has a minimum of 110 hours of classroom instruction and meets ARCB standards. Massage therapists taking the National Reflexology–Hand Exam must have achieved ARCB Foot certification as a prerequisite.

Zero Balancing Health Association (ZBHA)

The ZBHA offers certification in this unique form of manual therapy. Candidates who earn certification can use the Certified Zero Balancer (CZB) credential after meeting the following requirements:

  • Participation in a minimum of 100 hours of ZB coursework
  • Successful completion of two examinations:
    1. A written, open-book, multiple-choice examination
    2. A practical examination in which a candidate administers ZB to a ZBHA faculty member
    3. A log of any recommended activities used during the certification process

What’s the difference between massage therapy certification and licensure?

Massage therapy certification is pursued by choice of the certification candidate. While preferred, and sometimes required, by employers, certification is not necessary to practice massage therapy. However, state licensure, where required, is mandatory for the practice of massage therapy. It is illegal to administer massage therapy without a license in states or municipalities where licensure is required.

Massage therapists are regulated at the state level. Licensure typically requires the completion of between 500 and 1,000 education hours. Most states and U.S. territories also mandate successful completion of the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), an examination of 100 multiple-choice questions administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). Additional requirements for licensure and licensure renewal vary by state.


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