If you were to collect business cards from a group of massage therapists, you might notice something odd. Some people’s cards might say “licensed massage therapist.” Others say “certified.” Others still stay both. What’s the difference? Knowing the difference is important if you’re just entering the massage work force or are looking to move your practice to a new state. Luckily, there’s a clear distinction between the two.
Massage Licenses: The Legal Right to Practice
Licenses are granted by government bodies on the local, state and federal levels. They’re governed by law and administered by a regulatory board. Each is designed to protect public safety and are only granted to people that can demonstrate education, training and testing standards in their respective field. In the 43 states where they’re required, a state massage license is mandatory to practice massage therapy. Your city or county government may also have its own requirements.
Massage licenses are typically administered by boards of health, nursing or similar bodies. Requirements vary by state, but a minimum number of credit hours from a reputable school are often required. Most states require a national exam, like the MBLEx or NCBTMB, be passed as well.
Massage career training programs typically fulfill all licensing requirements for your state and prepare you for whatever exams you need to take. If you aren’t currently enrolled in a program, make sure you compare your state requirements to the programs you’re interested in before you enroll.
Your massage license will have to be renewed every few years. Most states mandate that you complete continuing education credits (CEUs) to qualify for renewal. Massage CEU courses keep you engaged in your field, up-to-date on the latest thinking and expand your skill set. They’re a great way to add a new modality to your toolbox. Make sure to stay on top of your CEUs so you aren’t caught unaware when renewal time rolls around.
Massage Certification: Recognition in the Field
Certifications are granted by private organizations. With massage certifications, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is the most prominent certifying body. Certification gives you public recognition that you meet an organization’s standards for a specific quality or skill.
Certifications can be informal, like a general “seal of approval,” or more formal and professional. Professional certifications typically demand a certain amount of education be completed, a test be passed or similar requirements be met in order to be certified. Massage certifications typically have requirements like minimum education hours, an exam and regular renewal intervals.
Professional certifications are voluntary, but some may be necessary in order to obtain your license. The NCBTMB exams are an excellent example. Many states accept NCBTMB exams as part of their licensing process. Other massage certifications, like those for specific modalities or membership in national massage groups, demonstrate your aptitude to your clients or earn you perks through the certifying body.
NCBTMB Board Certification requires continuing education to renew. Keep in mind that whatever courses you take may be used to fulfill both your certification and licensing renewal minimums. You don’t have to double up your CEU load to meet both requirements.
Licensing and certification requirements and laws are constantly changing. Make sure you stay up-to-date on the rules that apply to you. Nothing is worse than coming up on renewal only to find out you’re missing a requirement you never knew about!