Massage therapy certification is a demonstration of your expertise as a massage therapist. Certification is required before many states will decide to license you as a legally practicing massage therapist. In addition, having massage therapy certification looks good on your resume, is impressive to employers, and may help you earn a higher salary.
Several steps are required to obtain your massage therapy certification. To become certified, you will need a mix of training hours, in addition to passing a certification exam. Some schools design their training programs to meet specific state certification requirements, but these differ across the country.
Follow the guide below to learn the basics of massage therapy certification, no matter which state you plan to work in.
The Massage Therapy Certification Process
Besides simply enhancing your resume and legitimizing your massage therapy training, massage therapy certification may be required in certain states to apply for a massage therapy license. While having a massage therapy certification is not required to work in every state, it is generally recommended that massage therapists become certified before beginning their career.
Massage therapy certification indicates that a therapist has received training consistent with the values of the National Certification Board of Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers (NCBTMB). The organization is the regulatory board that issues certification to massage therapists who qualify.
Prior to 2013, the NCBTMB offered National Certification for massage therapists, which was generally perceived to be the highest regarded massage therapist certification. After 2013 the organization offers Board Certification, which features slightly stricter criteria.
- National Certification requirements include 500 hours of instruction from an accredited massage therapy school, and passing one of the certification exams
- Board Certification requirements include 750 hours of instruction at an accredited massage therapy school, 250 hours of hands-on experience, CPR certification, and passing the Board Certification exam
Massage Therapist Certification Exams
The NCBTMB offers two different certification exams for prospective massage therapists. However, before you take either of these exams, you must first complete a minimum of 500 hours of training at an accredited massage therapy school.
After completing your education and training, you will become eligible to take either of two certification exams:
- The National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB)
- The National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM)
The NCETMB and NCETM exams cover generally the same material, including:
- Knowledge of Body Systems
- Business Knowledge and Ethics
However, the NCETMB will have additional questions in certain subject areas including:
- Bodywork Application
Check with your local regulatory board to find out which exam is preferred in your state. Both of these exams are multiple choice and cover material taught in standard massage therapy training programs.
Certain states require the NCETMB exam because it is a more thorough certification process. Certain counties within a state also differ in which exam they require. That is why it is important to find out the certification process in the county you desire to work before signing up for either exam.
If your state does not require licensing and certification, you can still take one of the NCBTMB exams to receive national certification. This may help you discover more career opportunities or negotiate a higher massage therapist salary.
Renewing a Massage Therapist Certification
You must renew your massage therapy certification every 4 years to stay certified. To renew your massage therapy certification, you must retake one of the NCBTMB exams. In addition, you must provide proof that you have completed additional massage therapy training courses, totaling at least 50 hours of education. You must also provide proof that you have completed at least 200 hours of massage therapy.
Further information on massage therapy certification is available on the NCBTMB website.