Massage Therapy Licensure in the District of Columbia
The District of Columbia’s massage therapists are under the jurisdiction of the DC Board of Massage Therapy. To be eligible for licensing, one must be at least 18 years of age and must meet Washington DC’s education, examination, and background check requirements.
Select a DC Massage Therapy Licensure Topic:
- Massage Therapy Schools in DC
- Massage Therapist Education Requirements in DC
- Examination Requirements
- Reciprocity for Out-of-State Massage Therapists
- Background Check Requirements
- Application Process (Forms and Materials)
- Contacts for the Board and Professional Associations
Massage Therapist Educational Requirements
Massage therapists must complete programs that are in accordance with the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations for Massage Therapy (http://doh.dc.gov/).
The District of Columbia will accept programs that are accredited or approved by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation or that are deemed equivalent. The licensing agency can also accept education from schools that hold regional accreditation, accreditation by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Education and Training, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology, or other agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education.
DC programs are to be licensed by the District of Columbia Educational Licensing Commission. Out-of-state programs are to be appropriately licensed in their own jurisdictions.
Programs must be at least 500 hours. At least 100 hours are to be in the fields of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology. The majority of the remaining hours should be in theory and practice, but there should also be coverage of health and hygiene, first aid and CPR, massage contraindications, ethics, and business practices. Other topics may be covered as well. There must be a minimum of three hours of ethics coursework.
Prospective DC massage therapists are licensed by examination. There are multiple examinations that may be accepted.
The license application references the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), an examination that is no longer offered. The organization that had offered it, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCNTMB), ceased to make it available February 1, 2015, choosing to concentrate efforts on a Board Certification process that is more rigorous than state licensing. The NCBTMB now offers the NCBTMB Board Certification Examination (https://www.ncbtmb.org/certificants/). Individuals cannot actually achieve Board Certification until they have practiced at the professional level for 250 hours, although they may attempt the examination before all requirements are met. Educational requirements are also set higher for Board Certification than DC licensing.
According to DC licensing application materials, other examinations may be accepted, at Board discretion, if they are certified by the National Commission of Certifying Agencies (NCCA). Board regulations specifically reference examinations certified by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards currently offers the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) and list DC among the jurisdictions that accept it for licensing purposes (https://fsmtb.org/). The only requirements to take the MBLEx are submission of an application and $195 fee.
Multiple organizations are available to take questions during transitional periods. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork can be reached at 800-296-0664. Individuals with questions about the MBLEx can call the Licensing Exam Office at 866-962-3926 or email ‘mblex at fsmtb.org’.
Criminal Background Check Requirements
Applicants must have criminal background checks processed by the Metropolitan Police Department and the FBI (http://doh.dc.gov Background).
The DC Department of Health contracts with Morphotrust (formerly L-1) for Livescan (electronic) fingerprinting services. Applicants may schedule online or call 877-783-4187. There are fingerprinting sites in Maryland and Virginia as well as DC.
Out-of-state applicants may have their fingerprints made at a local agency on a standard FD-258 FBI card, then send them to Morphotrust for processing. They will register with Morphotrust before sending the card. The fee for the background check may be paid online. Individuals may download the form “Card Scan Instructions” for detailed instructions (www.l1enrollment.com/state forms dc).
Fingerprints may also be made through the Metropolitan Police Department.
The Application Process
Applications are available on the Department of Health website (doh.dc.gov/ App).
An applicant will need two passport-style photographs. The licensing agency notes that the photographs cannot be computer-generated.
The applicant will also need to include a copy of a government-issued ID.
Transcripts are to be included in sealed envelopes or sent to the Board directly from the issuing institution.
The application includes background questions. The first concerns fees owed to the District of Columbia Government. Licensure is denied to individuals who owe more than $100 of fees in any of five categories if the individual has not made payment arrangements and is not on appeal. Other questions concern legal and professional history; applicants with “yes” answers will need to provide supporting documentation.
A $262 fee is due at the time of application.
Applications are mailed to the following address:
DC Board of Massage Therapy
P.O. Box 37802
Washington, DC 20013
Out-of-State and International Massage Therapists
Applicants are required to submit license verification if they have ever held licensing in another jurisdiction.
Internationally educated massage therapists will have their education and practical training evaluated for equivalency. They are subject to the same regulations, except for those concerning program approvals and accreditations. Documents that are not in English are to be translated into English. The Board reserves the right to request an interview to assess qualifications.
Information about massage therapy licensing can be found on the Department of Health website (doh.dc.gov/massage therapy licensing). The customer service line is available at 877-672-2174 on weekdays from 8:30 to 4:30; applicants are invited to call if they have questions.