Massage Therapy Licensure in Tennessee

Tennessee massage therapists are under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Massage Licensure Board. In order to be licensed, an individual must meet education and examination requirements and clear a background check. The Board also requires references.

Select a Tennessee Massage Therapy Licensure Topic:

Licensed Massage Therapist Educational Requirements

A prospective massage therapist will need to complete a curriculum in massage, bodywork, or somatic therapy. The total program must be at least 500 hours ( / sos / rules / 0870 / pdf).

Programs may be authorized by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, the Tennessee Board of Regents, or an agency in another state that is comparable to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

Tennessee programs are approved by the Board based on meeting the regulations set forth in Chapter 0870-02 of administrative rule ( / sos / rules pdf). Rules cover policies and resources as well as curriculum. Admitted students must be at least 18 and in possession of high school diplomas or general equivalency diplomas.

At least 200 programs hours must consist of science coursework. This content area is to include anatomy, Western and/or Eastern physiology, kinesiology, pathology, hygiene, and blood borne pathogens, including HIV.

At least 200 hours are to cover the basics of massage theory and practice. This content is to include concepts such as indications and contraindications, body mechanics and self-care, assessment and documentation, as well as actual therapeutic manipulations. The Board has identified a number of manipulations that are to be addressed, among them, kneading, friction, joint movements, compression, and stretching. This content area is to include demonstration and practice.

At least ten hours are to address ethics.

At least five hours must cover Tennessee massage laws and regulations.

The remaining 85 hours are to consist of related subjects. The following are to be addressed: CPR and first aid, referral methods, special populations, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), communication skills, business practices, and specialized and adjunctive therapies, including hydrotherapy. Other subjects may also receive coverage.

The licensing agency has provided a list of approved in-state schools ( / health / article / ML edu).

Graduates of out-of-state programs will need to verify, at the time of application, that their programs included the minimum number of hours in the five mandated content areas; the licensing agency will look for this information on the transcript. Tennessee does not accept distance learning as being qualifying for initial licensure ( / ML board).

Massage Therapist License Examination Requirements

The Tennessee licensing agency can accept either 1) the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx), available through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) or 2) examinations offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

The NCBTMB does not currently offer an examination that is intended for licensure. The only current examination is the Board Certification for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork exam (BCETMB), which is designed as one part of a Board Certification process: a credentialing process that does not replace licensure, but indicates that the professional has met higher standards in some areas ( / board certification). In the recent past, the NCBTMB offered the NCETM and NCETMB.

Candidates wishing to take the MBLEx will find registration information on the FSMTB website ( They are not required to send transcripts but are asked to confirm that they have read examination information. The examination fee is $195. Approved candidates schedule though Pearson VUE. The examination is computer-adapted and is available on an ongoing basis, but candidates are advised to schedule early. Score reports are automatically provided to one licensing agency selected by the applicant. Additional score reports can be purchased for $20.

The Background Check Process

Applicants must have criminal background checks processed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the FBI. Both in-state and out-of-state applicants will use the approved vendor, IdentoGo by Morphotrust. However, some procedures will be different.

In-state applicants will have their fingerprints made electronically. They will begin by scheduling. This step can be carried out online ( / FP / Tennessee). Applicants without internet access may call (855) 226-2937. Electronic fingerprinting sites are located throughout the state ( / locations / st=tn); IdentoGo has provided addresses and business hours.

Out-of-state applicants can have their fingerprints made at a local police department or sheriff’s office. They will need to send them to Identogo, however, for processing. The licensing agency recommends utilizing a tracking service. Before mailing their fingerprint cards, applicants will register with IdentoGo.

The OCA number is available from the Department of Health ( / health / ML about).

Effective March 1, 2015, the processing fee is $38. Out-of-state candidates may owe additional fees at the fingerprinting site.

The Application Process

Applications can be printed from the Department of Health website ( / health / ML applications).

The licensing agency will need official transcripts. The application packet includes a verification form to submit to the school(s).

The applicant will need two references from health care professionals. They are to address character and ethics.

The licensing agency will also need a copy of the applicant’s birth certificate. Applicants who were not born in the United States will be required to document immigrant status.

Individuals who answer “yes” to competency questions will need to include supporting documentation.

All applicants will be required to fill out practitioner profile questionnaires.

The applicant will need to include a check or money order for $280.

Application materials are to be sent to the Massage Licensure Board in Nashville.

The licensing agency sends out deficiency letters in cases where necessary documentation is missing; the required documentation must be received within 60 days of notice.

The Board lists six weeks as the typical application processing time.

Out-of-State Massage Therapists

Out-of-state massage therapists must document 500 hours of education unless they hold certification through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and have held certification for at least five years. Massage therapists who choose the latter route will also need to verify active practice; details are found in the application packet.

Reciprocity candidates are required to complete five instructional hours that address the statutes and regulations governing Tennessee massage. They will also need to provide evidence of having ten hours of ethics instruction.

Additional Information

Massage therapist licensing information is available from the Tennessee Department of Health ( / health / ML board). Individuals who wish to speak to a representative about massage therapy licensure can call (615) 253-2111. Questions about rules and regulations can be addressed to (615) 532-3202 or (800) 778-4123 ( / sos / rules).

The Tennessee Massage Therapy Association is an additional professional resource (

Check Out:

Massage Therapy Schools in Tennesse

Massage Therapy Schools in Memphis

Massage Schools in Knoxville