As one of the oldest, largest, and most prestigious national organizations in the world of massage, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is a major player in the massage profession. Understanding what they do, along with what they don’t do, is essential for massage therapists.
Massage therapy is an exciting professional field. As a massage therapist, you have the opportunity to provide healing to a wide range of clients. It’s incredibly rewarding work, as any massage therapist will tell you. And when you’re in school studying to become a professional health care provider, most of your energy is devoted to learning your craft. Your focus is on becoming the best therapist you can be.
Once you open your own practice or begin a job search, though, you quickly realize that there’s a lot more to keeping up with the profession than simply offering quality care to your clients. For independent practitioners especially, running a business can be a daunting task: there are records to keep, accounting to do, monthly budgeting to consider–and that’s not to mention marketing and advertising.
On top of all of this, there’s the issue of licensure and certification. This is where it’s easy to feel lost. There are so many different requirements from state to state when it comes to licensure. As if that weren’t enough, though, multiple national organizations exist which oversee different levels and aspects of certification. And, additionally, those organizations’ purview and scope have changed over the years.
What is the NCBTMB? What’s its purpose? What certification does it offer? Is sitting for its exam the right choice for you? How do CEUs (Continuing Education Units) work?
If you’re wondering any of the above, then you’ve come to the right place. Our definitive guide to the NCBTMB requirements, including its National Certified Exam, will answer all of your questions. By the end of this guide, you might just be the most knowledgeable massage therapist in your office!
Ready to learn all there is to know? Let’s dig in.
What is the NCBTMB?
The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) was founded in 1992 to “advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession.” They worked to develop the first national testing standard for massage therapists, with the test becoming available for the first time in 1992. More than 5,000 massage professionals sat for the exam in its first year alone!
This National Certification Exam became known as the NCETMB, or National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. For many years, the NCETMB was the only widely applied national standard for professional massage therapists and bodyworkers.
But is this still true today? What other organizations exist, and what impact do they have on massage professionals? Are there other exams that you should consider as a massage therapist? Read on to learn more.
Other National Organizations
In 2005, Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) brought together leaders in the world of massage therapy from nearly two dozen states. Working together, these regulators, professionals, and educators created the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).
The main thrust of the FSMTB was to create an entry level licensing exam that could be made available to massage professionals in every state, all across the country. This exam would encompass all the basics of massage therapy and bodywork, and serve as a metric for ensuring that professionals across the country share an understanding of the fundamentals of massage therapy.
Eventually, the FSMTB created an entry level licensing exam called the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination, or MBLEx. Over time, MBLEx came to be seen as an entry level standard of massage competency in states all across the country. As we’ll see below, it continues to serve as that standard today.
Ultimately, the NCBTMB opted to shift its focus as a national regulatory organization. As MBLEx became a national entry-level standard for therapists, NCBTMB decided to differentiate itself as a “higher bar” that massage professionals could opt to hold themselves to.
In 2014, the NCBTMB announced that it would discontinue offering its National Certification Exam, simultaneously throwing its support behind the FSMTB and endorsing the MBLEx exam as a national minimum standard for licensure. What does this mean for state licensure requirements? And if the NCBTMB is no longer offering the NCETMB National Certification Exam, what is it offering to massage therapists? Read on to find out.
State Licensure Requirements
The NCBTMB’s decision to discontinue its National Certification Exam and begin partnering with the FSMTB caused quite a bit of confusion in the massage profession. So, if you’ve reached this point in the guide and you’re thinking, “this is awfully confusing,” don’t worry: you’re not alone!
With so many different national organizations related to massage, and 50 states (plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico) to worry about individually, trying to sort out what you actually need to do in order to become licensed in your state can be more than a bit overwhelming. But take heart: we’ve put together this definitive guide, and by the time you’re done, you’ll be an NCBTMB certification and state licensure expert!
Individual requirements for state licensure vary widely throughout the country. Different states have their own requirements when it comes to how many hours of school you need to have attended; how many CEU courses you’re required to keep up with from year to year; liability insurance and associated regulations; approved exams (some states allow for multiple options); and background checks and other state-specific requirements.
Many of these requirements have changed over the years, and continue to change to this day. While we do our best to maintain this information and keep it as current as possible, we encourage you to use this as a starting point and then check with your individual state licensing body to confirm that its requirements haven’t changed.
Since we’re just concerned with certification and exams here, we won’t go into detail about all of the requirements mandated by each state for individual certification. Instead, we’ll just look at hours of education required, along with what type of licensure exam is accepted by each state. Again, for more detailed information, check with your specific state’s licensing body.
|State||Educational hours:||Exam required:||CEU Hours:|
|Alabama||650||MBLEx or NCETMB||16 hours / 2 years|
|Alaska||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||16 hours / 2 years|
|Arizona||700||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Arkansas||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||18 hours / 2 years|
|California||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||None required|
|Colorado||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||None required|
|Connecticut||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 4 years|
|Delaware||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|District of Columbia||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 2 years|
|Florida||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Georgia||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Hawaii||570||Hawaii state test||None required|
|Idaho||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||6 hours / 1 year|
|Illinois||600||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Indiana||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||None|
|Iowa||600||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Kansas||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage|
|Kentucky||600||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Louisiana||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 1 year|
|Maine||500||MBLEx or NCETMB (passage of test can count as an alternative to formal education)||None required|
|Maryland||600||MBLEx or NCETMB or NCCAOM||24 hours / 2 years|
|Massachusetts||650||No exam required||None required|
|Michigan||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||TBD hours / 3 years|
|Minnesota||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage|
|Mississippi||700||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Missouri||500||MBLEx or NCETMB or NCCAOM||12 hours / 2 years|
|Montana||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 2 years|
|Nebraska||1,000||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Nevada||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 1 year|
|New Hampshire||750||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 2 years|
|New Jersey||500||MBLEx or NCETMB or NCCAOM (passage of test can count as an alternative to formal education)||20 hours / 2 years|
|New Mexico||650||MBLEx or NCETMB||16 hours / 2 years|
|New York||1,000||New York state test||36 hours / 3 years|
|North Carolina||500||MBLEx||24 hours / 2 years|
|North Dakota||750||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Oklahoma||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||16 hours / 2 years|
|Oregon||625||MBLEx or NCETMB||25 hours / 2 years|
|Pennsylvania||600||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Puerto Rico||1,000||MBLEx||TBD hours / 3 years|
|Rhode Island||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||None|
|South Carolina||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 2 years|
|South Dakota||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||8 hours / 2 years|
|Tennessee||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||25 hours / 2 years|
|Texas||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||12 hours / 2 years|
|Utah||600||MBLEx or NCETMB||None required|
|Vermont||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage|
|Virginia||500||MBLEx||24 hours / 2 years|
|Washington||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|West Virginia||500||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Wisconsin||600||MBLEx or NCETMB||24 hours / 2 years|
|Wyoming||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage||No state regulation of massage|
So, what can we take away from these requirements as a whole?
Four states have no regulations related to massage whatsoever, meaning there are no exam requirements, education requirements, or regulations of any kind. Hawaii and New York are on the opposite end of the spectrum, administering their own, proprietary state exams.
But altogether, 41 states currently accept prior passage of the NCETMB as a valid credential for obtaining licensure in those states. Aside from the states without regulation, along with Hawaii and New York, every other state accepts the MBLEx exam for massage therapists who are looking to becoming licensed.
Wait a second, though: didn’t the NCBTMB discontinue its National Certification exam? Isn’t the NCETMB no longer even offered?
You’re right! The NCETMB is, in fact, no longer offered by NCBTMB. So, what’s going on here? Why do so many state licensing bodies still list on their websites that they accept passage of the NCETMB exam as a valid credential for massage therapists seeking state licensure?
The answer is simple. If you took the old NCETMB exam before February 1, 2015, the states listed above as accepting the NCETMB exam will give you credit for a passing grade. Once the NCBTMB decided to phase out their National Certificate test, though, these states stopped honoring it as a legitimate exam for massage therapists seeking state-level certification.
This begs an important question. If the NCETMB exam has been phased out, massage therapists new to the field will need to take the MBLEx exam in most states (aside from Hawaii and New York, which have their own proprietary exams, along with the four states which don’t currently have any regulations related to massage).
The great news is, once you’ve taken and passed the MBLEx, you do not have to renew the credential. There are no additional fees to be paid and no more tests!
How to Maintain Certification
Congratulations! You prepared extensively and sat for the MBLEx exam, and you passed! Give yourself a pat on the back.
But now that you’re certified, you might be wondering: what’s next? Are there more requirements? How do I maintain my licensure?
Each state licensing board or agency has their own unique requirements. Most are on an annual cycle. We encourage you to use this as a starting point and then check with your individual state licensing body to confirm that its requirements haven’t changed.
What are CEUs, and How Do They Work?
After finishing a massage program, most soon-to-be practitioners recall how hectic it was. In a relatively short amount of time, you had to learn, assimilate, and retain an incredible amount of information.
With your program over, you may be asking yourself: how do I keep learning? After all, it seems impossible to have learned all there is to know about bodywork in such a short timeframe.
Indeed, even if you had to study for more than a thousand hours to complete your program, there’s always more you could learn. Particularly if you don’t have a medical background to begin with, there’s a lot to familiarize yourself with in order to become an effective bodyworker.
This is why states all across the country require that licensed massage professionals continue their education from year to year in order to maintain their license. You’ve learned about the NCBTMB, the MBLEx, and state requirements for massage. In the case of a vast majority of states, you’ll need to keep up with your education on a regular basis through the accumulation of CEU (Continuing Education Unit) credit hours.
So, how do CEUs work?
Continuing education isn’t unique to massage. In fact, lots of other professions require that licensed professionals take courses from year to year in order to maintain their licensure. These other occupations cover a wide variety of sectors and industries, including not just health care workers like doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, chiropractors, dentists, acupuncturists, and so on, but also social workers, architects, engineers, designers, teachers, and more.
What do all of these occupations have in common? Every single one of them involves offering a vital service to people. And, generally, that service is something that has a serious influence on people’s lives. CEUs are necessary because they ensure that these professionals keep up with trends, developments, and breakthroughs in their industries.
With this in mind, you can see how bodywork fits this same description. Clients seek therapy because of chronic disease, acute conditions, injuries, and even personal issues related to stress. And no matter why a client comes to you, you’ve got to be ready to address whatever issues they bring to the table. That means that you’ll not only have to be on top of the field of massage and bodywork: you’ll also need to keep up with advances in medicine in general.
So, now you understand how CEUs work in a broader sense. You need them to keep up with your state licensure. At this point, you’re likely wondering: how and where do I obtain continuing education credit hours?
Where to Find CEUs for Massage Therapist Licensure
In the past, keeping up with your CEU requirements was a challenge. It was expensive, time consuming, and difficult.
Fortunately, those days are over. Now, there are excellent online CEU options for massage professionals available through providers like Panda Massage CEU™. Panda Massage Online CEU courses are cheaper and more readily accessible than traditional classes, while providing the same level of educational value that you’d expect from an NCBTMB Approved Provider.
Not all online CEU providers are creating equal. What makes Panda stand out from the competition?
Panda’s online classes are without a doubt the highest quality available anywhere. We’re the premiere provider of online massage CEU courses, and we’re 100% certain you’ll be satisfied with our programs.
Other online classes tend to cover the same old, tired topics. Meanwhile, we’re excited to offer up a wide range of engaging courses, including deep tissue, kinesiology, hot stones, hydrotherapy, and more.
While other online CEU classes don’t even include a voiceover component, we ensure that all of our programs are professionally narrated. This makes it easier to follow along, which means you’ll retain more of what you learn.
If you’ve checked out other online CEU providers, you might have noticed that many of them don’t include a video with their classes. We include high quality video with every single one of our programs, which gives our courses an in-person classroom feel.
We know how busy you are as a practitioner. Maybe you can’t find the time to do a course in one sitting. That’s why all of our classes are self-paced: you can finish them at your leisure, and work them into your schedule.
Quality is important, but so is value. That’s why we offer all of our courses at affordable prices that fit any budget. And just think: you’ll save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars with an online course that you would have otherwise spent on traveling to an out-of-state, all day workshop.
Now that you have a better understanding of the NCBTMB, the MBLEx, licensure requirements, and what your specific state requirements are for continuing education, you are more prepared to take your CEUs. As a massage professional, it’s your job to provide your clients with the relief and treatment that they need. And in order to do that, you need to keep up with your annual licensure requirements–which means keeping up with your massage therapy CEUs.
And, best of all, maintaining your certification has never been easier thanks to online CEU options. Take a look at the courses offered by Panda Massage CEU, and you’ll be well on your way to the highest level of professionalism in massage therapy and bodywork.