A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Certification in California

California massage therapists are certified by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). Certification standards went up in 2015. There is now just one level of credentialing open to new providers, Certified Massage Therapist, or CMT. In order to achieve the credential, a massage therapist must complete an approved educational program, pass an examination, and have an acceptable criminal background check.

Some California massage therapists work under local licenses or permits. The CMT is not a state mandate. However, CAMTC notes that a professional who holds the credential is authorized to work anywhere in the state and will not need to meet additional requirements at the local level (https://www.camtc.org/faq.aspx). A business license will be required in some cases; a license to practice will not.

Select a California Massage Therapy Certification Topic:

CMT Educational Requirements

The prospective massage therapist must complete 500 hours of education from approved providers. To be approved, a school must meet one of the following conditions:

  • Nationally accredited
  • Housed in a community college
  • Approved by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education
  • Approved by another agency cited in the Business and Professions Code section 4601(a)(1)-(5)

At least 100 hours of education must be in the following curriculum areas: anatomy, physiology, health and hygiene, contraindications, and business and ethics (https://www.camtc.org/Education.aspx).

The Council notes that if one is enrolled in a program that is longer than the required 500 hours, it is possible to apply before completing the full program. However, this can only happen if the school is able and willing to issue an official transcript that documents that all requirements have been met, including the 100 hours of state-mandated topics (https://www.camtc.org/Faq.aspx).

CAMTC has provided a list of schools that have been ‘unapproved’ (https://www.camtc.org/MassageProfessionals.aspx). When CAMTC unapproves a school, the status is effective on a particular date, typically 90 days in the future. A candidate can apply and present transcripts from the school prior to the unapproval date but will need to provide documentation of additional education beyond what is documented on the transcript.

The graduate will also find a list of schools that have been deemed ‘inadequate’. The Council will consider transcripts from these schools but the graduate will need to provide additional evidence of having met standards at the level California requires. Additional coursework, national certification, massage association membership, and reference letters are among the many factors that may be considered (https://www.camtc.org/MassageProfessionals.aspx).

CMT Examination Requirements

Under new regulations, the prospective massage professional must pass an examination prior to certification. CAMTC will accept examinations by either of two approved organizations, the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Included in the list of approved examinations are some that are no longer offered.

Current offerings include the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) and the Board Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB).

The MBLEx is designed for licensing purposes. Candidates who opt for the MBLEx are typically issued ATTs within five days of the time the FSMTB receives the application (https://fsmtb.org/content/?id=61). The candidate will need to attest to having read the candidate handbook. Candidates should be prepared to pay a $195 examination fee. Once approved, they can select the location and date; examinations are administered by Pearson VUE.

The BCTMB is designed as one component of a Board Certification process (http://www.ncbtmb.com/board-certification). Candidates should be aware that the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork has more stringent requirements for education. Before Board Certification can be awarded, the massage therapist must meet additional requirements, including accruing 250 hours of work experience at the professional level.

The National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM) and the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) can be accepted if taken by February 1, 2015. They are no longer available.

The Background Check Process

Applicants must have fingerprint-based criminal background checks carried out by the California Department of Justice and the FBI. Applicants begin by making two copies of the “Request for Live Scan Service form”. They then take the forms to a Livescan (electronic fingerprinting) vendor. One form will eventually be sent to CAMTC; the other is retained for the applicant’s records.

Fees will vary by vendor. CAMTC reports that the vendor fee and the background check fees should total $80 to $90. CAMTC refers applicants to the Department of Justice for a list of fingerprinting sites (http://ag.ca.gov/fingerprints/publications/contact.php).

The Application Process

Application forms are available for download from the CAMTC website (https://www.camtc.org/FormDownload.aspx). Detailed instructions are provided for most questions. Applicants must confirm that they have read all instructions.

Applicants are to request that official transcripts be sent to the California Massage Therapy Council.

They will need to list all permits, licenses, and registrations they currently hold.

The $150 fee includes the first two years of certification.

CAMTC sends out email confirmation of receipt, but not until applicant information has been entered into the system; there can be a delay of some weeks. Applicants who wish immediate confirmation can send the application by USPS mail with delivery confirmation. In cases where qualifications are clearly met and there are no concerns about the applicant’s background, the certification process is typically completed in about 45 days.

If an individual submits a transcript from an unapproved school, the Council will consider the application incomplete. The application can be held for up to a year while the individual completes qualifying education.

Maintaining and Converting Lower Certifications

Although the Council no longer issues Certified Massage Practitioner (CMP) credentials to new applicants, those who hold the credential may maintain it. They may upgrade by passing an approved examination and completing additional coursework to bring their total education hours up to 500; the additional coursework is to be completed through approved schools.

Individuals with Conditional Certified Massage Practitioner (CCMP) may continue to work toward their CMP if they are making adequate yearly progress (https://www.camtc.org/Faq.aspx).

Out-of-State Massage Therapists

Certification may be granted to massage therapists who are currently licensed in good standing in U.S. states or Canadian provinces that have standards at least on a par with those of California.

Additional Information

The California Massage Therapy Council (https://www.camtc.org/MassageProfessionals.aspx) can be reached by telephone at (916) 669-5336 between 9:00 and 5:00. Email addresses for staff members are posted online (https://www.camtc.org/ContactUs.aspx). Interested individuals can sign up for alerts and updates, using the link on the contact page. Current applicants do not need to fill out the form; they will receive updates automatically.

The California Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association is an additional professional resource (http://www.amta-ca.org/).

Massage Therapy Schools in California

Healing Hands School of Holistic Health (HHSHH): With locations in Escondido & Laguna Hills, California, HHSHH offers accredited training programs for future Massage Therapists and Holistic Health Practitioners. These programs are California Certified and Nationally accredited.