Massage Therapy Licensing: What you should know…

Most states require you to be licensed to work as a massage therapist. However, massage therapy licensing doesn’t have as long a history as licensing in many other disciplines. This is one reason the process can vary so much from state to state.

Most states require you to be licensed to work as a massage therapist.

The major requirements are generally education and examination. There can be various other requirements, such as completing a background check, taking out a liability insurance policy, and/ or completing state-specific trainings. The process can take some time. The following is a look at the typical requirements — and at the documentation that the licensing agency may require.

Documenting Education

Massage therapy education may be documented in multiple ways. Most states require official transcripts from the massage therapy school or program. Some have an educational verification form that must be completed by a representative of the school. This form may take the place of transcripts or may be in addition.

Many states also require you to document high school graduation or equivalency. You may need to secure a transcript or diploma from your high school.

Meeting Examination Requirements

Most states require a licensing examination, though there are some exceptions. In most cases, you take the examination before applying. If you take the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), your scores can generally be sent directly to the licensing agency you select; the process is electronic and can be very quick. If you are applying through a nontraditional pathway, such as apprenticeship, you will apply first to your state licensing agency. You may need a license to work as an apprentice.

Some states also require a jurisprudence exam. This tests your knowledge of massage-related laws, rules, and ethics. In some cases, this is a formal examination that is scheduled intermittently at the Board office. In other instances, you can complete it online. Some states require you to affirm that you have read the applicable laws and regulations, even if they don’t test you on them.

Background Screening

Your board may require you to have a fingerprint-based background check. In some cases, there is an approved provider that you must use: typically one that provides scanned fingerprinting services. There is generally an agency (ORI) number that you will need to provide. This information can typically be found in the application packet.

Other states may carry out a name-based background check. Virtually all applications include questions about criminal history. Criminal convictions are not necessarily disqualifying. However, you will be asked to provide detailed information. There are typically two components: official documents and self-explanation. The licensing agency may also welcome reference letters.

A few jurisdictions seek references from all applicants.

Fulfilling Additional Requirements

Some states require you to take out a liability insurance policy. You will need to make sure your policy complies with board rule. There is typically a minimum coverage amount.

Some states require you to take out a liability insurance policy.

A number of states require you to show evidence of current CPR certification. The application packet may include links to approved providers.

Preparing the Application

There are a few minor steps that may add time to the application process. Some states require you to include a passport photo — or two — to your application packet.

Many require you to document that you’re at least eighteen. Some require you to document that you are a citizen or hold other legal status. If you were born in the United States, this can be as simple as including a photocopy of a driver’s license or government-issued ID.

The application may require notarization.

The timeline can vary. But licensing agencies tend to agree about the most important thing you can do to ensure timely processing: follow all steps and include all necessary information.