Not every state licenses massage therapists. If you live in a state or plan to move to a state without massage licensing, there is still plenty of preparation and planning needed to get your massage therapy career started.
While you may be relieved that you do not have to deal with any headaches and red tape of state licensing, a lack of licensing creates its own set of problems.
Let’s look at some of the benefits, challenges, and impacts of this situation on your massage therapy career.
Why do states license massage therapists?
The main reason states license massage therapists is to ensure public safety. Most licensed massage therapists must complete a certain amount of training hours and pass a licensing exam before they can be licensed by a state board. This ensures that massage therapists have the knowledge and skills necessary to perform their jobs safely.
While massage therapy is very safe, it is not without risks. Massage therapy can injure a person if applied incorrectly. Certain conditions contraindicate massage (meaning it would possibly do more harm than good) and there are areas of the body that require some extra caution.
A state-licensed massage therapist is also more likely to have insurance than a non-licensed therapist. This is important because if something goes wrong during a massage, the client can sue the therapist.
In addition, many states now require background checks for many healthcare professionals, including massage therapists, before issuing a license. This helps to ensure that people with a history of violence or sexual assault are not working as massage therapists.
Why do some states not license massage therapists?
Some states feel that there are already enough regulations in place. Licensing a profession comes with regulatory costs and some states just do not believe the risk to public health and safety is high enough to warrant regulation of the profession.
Which states do not license massage therapists?
When I became a massage therapist in 2001, 29 states regulated massage. Today, we are up to about 47 states!
I use ABMP’s website to look at the most current list of states that license and do not license massage therapists.
As of the writing of this article, Kansas, Minnesota, and Wyoming do not currently have statewide massage licensing requirements. If you plan to practice massage therapy in these states, this does not you are not automatically allowed to practice massage therapy without a license. It just means the state does not issue a massage therapy license or regulate massage on a state level.
Often, in unlicensed states, there are local licenses or regulations that you will need to look into. Some of these regulations can be outdated and restrictive. Let’s say you live in Minnesota and plan to perform mobile massage in several surrounding towns or cities. You may need a local massage therapy license in each city.
I am new to massage therapy and living in state that does not license massage therapists. Does this mean I do not need to go to massage school first?
If your state does not require a massage license, you may not need to complete any formal massage education before opening a massage therapy business.
Again, check with your local government. Some will require you to meet some training requirements for even local massage licenses or have requirements for any massage establishments that open a massage business in their jurisdiction.
I live in a state that does not license massage therapy. Do I need to take a licensing exam, such as the MBLEx?
Probably not. If a state does not license massage therapists, the chances you are required to take a licensing exam, such as the MBLEx are slim.
One of my most popular articles is about California’s “voluntary” massage certification. If you choose not to get a state certification there, you are subject to each city’s regulations on massage. Some of those cities require the MBLEx for their city or county-issued massage licenses. Or they may require all persons working in a licensed massage establishment to meet certain requirements.
However, if you move to a state that licenses massage therapy, you should prepare to take the MBLEx. Most states will require that you complete a professional massage therapy licensing exam even if your previous state licensed you without passing a licensing exam.
What if my state without licensing decides to license massage therapists someday?
Most states that move toward massage therapy licensing usually have a grandfather period. This means that if you have been practicing for a certain amount of time, you will not be required to meet a certain hours requirement or take the licensing exam if you apply for a license within a certain window.
It is a good idea to keep up with any changes in your state’s requirements. Even if your state does not currently license massage therapists, that could change in the future. It is always a good idea to stay informed about any changes.
What if I move from a state that does not license massage therapists to a state that does?
That depends on the state again.
For example, if you are currently practicing massage therapy in an unlicensed state like Minnesota and move to Florida or Texas, you will need to show that you have completed 500 hours of training and take the MBLEx to apply for a Florida massage license. You likely will encounter more delays and issues getting a license than someone that is moving from a state that licenses massage to another state that licenses massage.
Regardless of where your state sits on the massage therapy licensing spectrum, there are a few things you can do to make your life as a massage therapist easier:
Stay Informed: As I said before, it is always a good idea to stay informed about changes in your state’s requirements. If you live in an unlicensed state and the requirements change, you want to be the first one to know so you can take the necessary steps to become licensed.
Get Trained: Even if your state does not require it, getting a professional massage education shows that you are a committed and serious massage therapist. It also gives you an edge over other therapists in your area that are not professionally trained.
Join a Professional Organization: There are many benefits to joining a professional organization, such as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) or ABMP. One of the main benefits is that you can stay up-to-date on changes in the massage therapy industry. AMTA also has a state government affairs department that tracks licensing developments in each state.