Aspiring massage therapists must ensure their educational path will prepare them for state licensure, if they plan to work in a state that requires licensure. As of October 2006, 36 states had regulations concerning the licensure of massage therapists.
Most states require 500 hours of education for licensure, but it varies state to state, ranging from just 250 classroom hours in Texas to 1,000 in Nebraska and New York. Many states also require an exam.
The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers a national certifying exam that is required by 33 states for massage therapy licensure. Four states – Hawaii, New York, Ohio, and Texas – do not use NCBTMB certification, and 14 states do not yet regulate the practice of massage (as of October 2006).
MassageTherapy.com provides a list of links to states that have massage therapy regulations, and includes each state's requirement for licensure and its continuing education requirements.
Most massage programs offer diplomas or certificates in professional massage. Some schools offer an associate of applied science degree as well. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 1,300 training programs for massage therapy in the nation, and about 300 of them are accredited. Accreditation is something a student should be sure to check for, especially since many states require a massage education be completed at an accredited institution.
After initial licensure, most states have continuing education requirements to maintain licensure. The NCBTMB certification also requires renewal every four years, and requirements include 48 hours of continuing education and work of least 200 hours of therapeutic massage.
Students should be familiar with their state's education and certification requirements before pursuing an education. Many states that do not regulate massage state-wide often have local laws and regulations concerning the practice.