2013 Massage Therapy Certification

New massage certification

On January 1, 2013, there was a big change in the massage therapy certification scene. The National Certification credential from the NCBTMB was retired and the new Board Certification was rolled out. So what does that mean for you if you’re a massage therapist, a massage student, or thinking about attending massage school? Here are the basics:

What was National Certification?

Through the end of 2012, National Certification was an entry-level qualification that showed you had reached certain basic standards, including a minimum of 500 hours of initial education, a commitment to continuing education, and adhering to a code of ethics. This was particularly handy in states that didn’t have licensing requirements (less and less common as time goes on), because massage therapists with more education could make themselves stand out from the crowd. Because they were effective, a number of states actually used the National Certification exam for licensing purposes.

How is Board Certification Different?

Unlike the old National Certification, Board Certification is not an entry-level credential. In fact, it’s impossible to become Board Certified until at least six months after graduating from massage school. Since licensing has become widespread, the NCBTMB felt that in order to set Certified massage therapists apart, they would need to raise the bar higher than entry-level. The requirements for the new Board Certification include:

  • Pass the new Board Certification exam
  • Complete at least 750 hours of education
  • Complete at least 250 hours of hands-on experience AFTER graduation
  • Hold current CPR certification
  • Affirm the Code of Ethics
  • Commit to opposing human trafficking

If your state requires one of the old NCB exams for licensure, don’t panic! Those exams will still be available for new graduates to take, they just won’t count towards Board Certification. You’ll have to take an additional exam later on if you’d like to become Board Certified.

What does this mean for potential students?

If Board Certification is something that interests you, you’ll probably want to choose a school that has a curriculum that’s at least 750 hours in length. While you could always make up the difference with continuing education courses if your school only offers 650 hours, it’s much easier (and certainly less time-consuming) to get it all from the same source. Since many states require 750 or even 1,000 hours of schooling for licensure, this could be a no-brainer for you!

What does this mean for current massage students?

While you’re completing your education hours, why not take care of the other Board Certification requirements as well? Complete your CPR training, and study for the exam. And of course, doing all that you can to either line up a job or find your own clients for once you’ve graduated and received your license will help you get those 250 hours of hands-on massage work completed.

What does this mean for current massage therapists?

If you currently hold National Certification, you already know that you’ll be able to maintain your current credential for a while until you complete the requirements for the new Board Certification. If you’re not Nationally Certified but are interested in Board Certification, then it’s time to look at what you’ve already completed: How much education have you had? How many hours of massage have you completed? Does your CPR certification need to be renewed? At that point, it’s about budgeting the time and money for the certification process, studying for the exam, and making it happen.
Ultimately, Board Certification is a choice. It’s not required for anyone, and whether it’s even helpful as a credential is entirely up to you. If you choose to use it to promote yourself, it can be an effective marketing tool. But if you’re expecting people to flock to you because you have some extra letters after your name, you’ll be in for a disappointment. But whether or not you choose to pursue Board Certification, you have the knowledge of what that means, and knowledge is the first step in any massage therapist’s journey.