A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Licensure in North Carolina

North Carolina's Licensed Massage and Bodywork Therapists (LMBTs) are credentialed on the basis of massage therapy education, background screening, and an examination process.

Select a North Carolina Massage and Bodywork Therapy Licensure Topic:

Licensed Massage and Bodywork Educational Requirements

Massage therapy education programs must be at least 500 hours.

North Carolina programs are subject to Board approval unless they are provided by 1) community colleges that hold accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools or 2) universities or colleges that are licensed by the North Carolina Community College System or the University of North Carolina Board of Governors and hold accreditation through some agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

The Board has provided a list of approved schools (http://www.bmbt.org/pages/School_List.html#Schools_Approved_by_the_NC_Board).

North Carolina has set the following curriculum standards as part of its approval process:

At least 200 hours are to address the fundamentals of massage therapy theory and practice. This coursework is to develop entry-level skills in techniques that are consistent with the definition of massage (for example, acupressure, deep tissue massage, and Swedish massage). At least 100 of these hours are to be application. The following practice-related concepts are also to receive coverage: client assessment, indications and contraindications, standard procedures for hygiene and infection control, draping, body mechanics, and the history of the profession.

At least 100 hours are to be in anatomy and physiology. Pathology is to be included in this content area.

At least 20 hours are to be in practice-related psychological concepts including the mind-body connection, the client therapist relationship, boundary functions, and professional communication skills.

At least 15 hours are to be in practice-related business management skills.

Another 15 hours are to be in professional ethics and North Carolina laws and rules.

The remaining 150 hours are to consist of related coursework, which may include in-depth study of anatomy and physiology and massage therapy techniques. Supervised clinical practice and adjunctive modalities may receive credit in this content area. No more than 50 hours should address techniques that are exempt from license requirements. CPR and first aid are not credited.

Non-approved programs should be at least substantially equivalent to approved ones. The Board may review credentials of out-of-state graduates on a case by case basis. Administrative rules state that all programs must either be licensed by the jurisdiction's educational licensing authority or be statutorily exempt. If the curriculum of an out-of-state program meets most requirements, but not all, the Board may issue a license with conditions (http://www.bmbt.org/downloads/GUIDELINES%2004%2011.pdf). The licensee would then need to meet some additional requirements post-licensure.

Examination Requirements

Candidates must pass both a content examination and a jurisprudence examination. Examination instructions state that in-state graduates must take the Massage Board Licensing Examination (MBLEx).

The MBLEx is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). It is a multiple choice examination, delivered via computer. Candidates can register online or submit their materials through the mail (https://www.fsmtb.org/mblex/application-requirements/). They should be prepared to remit a $195 fee. Approved candidates can schedule testing sessions through Pearson VUE; examinations are offered at testing sites around the nation.

The Board will accept other examinations from out-of-state applicants. Approved assessments include the National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) or the National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage (NCETM), both offered by the National Certification Board for Massage and Bodywork (NCBMTB), as well as the Asian Bodywork Therapy Examination, offered by the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM).

Applicants must also take a jurisprudence examination or "learning exercise" called the JLE (http://www.bmbt.org/pages/jurisprudence_learning_exercise.html). The exercise is completed online. Test takers are required to score 100% but may attempt the exam as many times as necessary. Questions are drawn from a test bank, so individuals will not have the same questions during each administration.

Background Check Requirement

Applicants must have fingerprint-based criminal background checks through the North Carolina Department of Justice. Applicants may have fingerprints made at a local law enforcement agency; they are to follow the instructions found in the application packet. The fingerprint card and release form are to be submitted with other application materials.

The Application Process

Applicants begin the process by requesting license application forms. There is a request form available on the Board website (http://www.bmbt.org/pages/DocumentCenter.html). Some supplemental forms are available for download as well. Applicants may preview the application instruction sheet.

The applicant will provide a copy of his or her massage therapy certificate, diploma, or degree as well as an official transcript in sealed envelope.

If the school was not approved by the North Carolina Board, and is not located within the state, the applicant will need to provide additional materials to document the license to operate as well as the curriculum and course content.

High school education must also be documented. The applicant may submit high school or college diploma or transcripts; transcripts are to show graduation date. A copy of a GED is also acceptable.

Age can be documented by a copy of a driver’s license or birth certificate.

The Board will also require four completed statements of moral character. Three are to come from healthcare practitioners, one from a massage therapy instructor. The Board notes that cosmeticians do not qualify as healthcare practitioners.

The Board further notes that applicants who receive third party documents and send them together in one package may be more confident of their receipt. They may opt to purchase delivery confirmation.

Applications may be approved by staff members or forwarded to the Board License Standards Committee (http://www.bmbt.org/pages/Licensure_Info.html#How to Apply for a License). Those that are forwarded will take additional processing time; final decisions are made at Board meetings. Applicants are advised that the process typically takes 60 business days (as figured from the date the License Standards Committee receives the materials).

License by Endorsement

There are two endorsement routes: License by Endorsement A and License by Endorsement B. The Board has provided an overview of each (http://www.bmbt.org/pages/Licensure_Info.html#How to Apply for a License).

License by Endorsement A is for professionals who are licensed in jurisdictions with at least substantively similar requirements. License by Endorsement B is available to massage therapists from states that do not license the profession. This option can also be selected by massage therapists who not have 500 ‘in-class’ hours but want the Board to review other credentials. Professionals who have not passed the MBLEx or NCBTMB exam, however, can only apply by License by Endorsement A.

Endorsement applicants are expected to document English language proficiency. If there are questions, the Board may request that an applicant come in for an interview.

Additional Information

North Carolina massage and bodywork licensure is governed by statutes, rules, and guidelines (http://www.bmbt.org/pages/DocumentCenter.html). Individuals can verify information by contacting the Board.

The North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy (http://www.bmbt.org/index.html) can be reached at (919) 546-0050 or ‘admin at bmbt.org’.

The North Carolina Chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association is the state’s professional organization (http://www.amtanc.org/).