A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Licensure in Washington

Washington massage therapists are licensed by the Washington State Department of Health (DOH). They may be licensed by examination or endorsement. Examination candidates must meet a very specific set of educational requirements. Endorsement candidates must meet comparable standards; they will also need to complete minor state-specific requirements such as AIDS training.

Select a Washington Massage Therapy Licensure Topic:

Masage Therapist Educational Requirements

A prospective Washington massage therapist may complete either an approved educational program or an approved apprenticeship program (http://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=18.108.070). However, all qualifying education must be pursued through programs approved by the Board. The program will provide the Board with information about any transfer credit that was awarded.

The Department of Health has provided a list of approved programs (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist/EducationRequirements/ApprovedSchools). The list includes some programs located in other states. Application for approval must be made by the program (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist/FrequentlyAskedQuestions). Approval is governed by rule (http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-830-420). Including the required curriculum is not, in and of itself, sufficient. However, the program will include, at minimum, the following coursework.

Massage theory and practice will comprise 265 hours. This content area includes techniques and remedial movements, practitioner body mechanics, and impact of techniques. No more than 50 of the required 265 hours may be credited for time spent in a student clinic.

There must be 55 hours devoted to clinical and business practices. This study will include medical terminology, hygiene, record keeping, ethics, business management, state and local law, human behavior and client interaction.

Programs include 130 hours of anatomy and physiology; included in the 130 hours are 40 hours of kinesiology.

Pathology comprises an additional 50 hours; pathology study must include indications and contraindications.

CPR and first aid training are to be included; they are in addition to the 500 hours described above. CPR certification should come from the American Heart Association, first aid certification from the American Red Cross. Other equivalent training may be accepted (http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-830-430).

Massage Therapist License Examination Requirements

Washington State has approved examinations offered by both the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). However, of the two organizations, only the FSMTB currently offers an examination that is intended for initial licensure.

The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards offers the MBLEX, an examination that is accepted for licensure in most states. Candidates begin by reading an examination information bulletin which is available for download from the FSMTB website (https://www.fsmtb.org/mblex/). They may submit their application materials online; they can expect them to be processed within one week. Applicants who completed apprenticeships will need to confirm license eligibility before they will be allowed to test. The resulting ATT will grant a 90 day testing eligibility window; exams are scheduled through Pearson VUE. The FSMTB routinely sends test results to one licensing agency selected by the candidate.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork currently offers only the BCETMB, an examination intended as one step in a rigorous Board Certification process (http://www.ncbtmb.com/board-certification). Some requirements are set higher than they are for Washington State licensure. Former NCBTMB examinations included the NCETM, NCETMB, and NESL.

Washington also requires a jurisprudence exam, or test of laws and rules. This can be completed online (http://dohmedia.doh.wa.gov/hsqa/massagetherapyexam/massage_exam_final_2.htm). Applicants must score 100%. The DOH advises successful test takers to print their certificate immediately as the information will not be retained; without this documentation, it will be necessary to retest.

The Application Process

Applications and supplemental forms are available for download from the DOH website (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist/ApplicationsandForms).

Education is verified through a school completion form. This is to be sent directly from the approved school and is to include the stamp that signifies Board approval. The form is included in the application packet.

The applicant will also need primary source documentation of test results, CPR and first aid certification, and any healthcare licenses held in other states or nations. Instructions are found in the application packet.

Applications are first reviewed for administrative completeness. Applicants can expect notification if their files are not complete (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/ApplicationStatus).

Applicants must answer questions about their legal and professional histories and, in some cases, provide supporting documentation. The licensing agency utilizes the Washington State Patrol database to run background checks (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/FingerprintBackgroundCheck). The Department of Health does not routinely require in-state applicants to have fingerprint-based background checks.

Routine applications can be approved by credentialing staff. Some applications are considered nonroutine because of responses to personal data questions or questionable supporting documentation; these go through the exception application process.

Military spouses and registered domestic partners may be eligible for expedited processing.

Out-of-State Massage Therapists

Out-of-state massage therapists are to provide credential verification from both current and former states of licensure.

Massage therapists may be endorsed into Washington on the basis of either U.S. or international credentials, provided that the requirements are substantially similar (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist/FrequentlyAskedQuestions). The Department of Health will need documentation of the other jurisdiction’s education and examination requirements.

An candidate for endorsement will need to take the state jurisprudence exam and complete four hours of HIV/ AIDS training; the required training can take many forms, including self-study.

An out-of-state massage therapist who is found ineligible for license without examination may apply through the traditional pathway (http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-830-035).

Foreign language documents must be translated into English and accompanied by a notarized affidavit (http://app.leg.wa.gov/WAC/default.aspx?cite=246-830-290).

Out-of-state applicants are routinely required to have fingerprint-based criminal background checks (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/ApplicationStatus). The Department of Health notes that this is because their history is unlikely to show up in the database used.

Massage Therapy Endorsements

Licensed massage therapists may pursue adjunct endorsements.

The intraoral endorsement requires 16 hours of coursework. The following concepts must be addressed:

  • Cranial anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology, and intraoral massage technique
  • Safety, sanitation, and hygienic practice
  • Pathology and contraindications

The animal massage endorsement may be issued for either small or large animals. The required coursework is as follows:

  • Animal anatomy and physiology: 20 hours
  • Animal kinesiology: 25 hours
  • Animal massage techniques: 25 hours
  • Handling techniques: 26 hours
  • Animal first aid: 4 hours

The Department of Health has provided a separate application form for each of these endorsements (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist/ApplicationsandForms).

Additional Information

Massage therapist licensing information is available from the Washington State Department of Health (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist).

The licensing agency can be reached by telephone at 360-236-4700 .

Interested individuals can join the massage therapy ListServ (http://listserv.wa.gov/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=massagebrd&A=1).