Dreaming of life as a traveling massage therapist?
Covid changed our world- how we work, travel, and really live each day. In many ways, people are less tied to their homes and offices than ever before. Lots of people found they could work remotely long term and find more time for travel.
And many massage therapists tend to be “free spirits” or start the profession near retirement. You may want to combine your love of traveling with your passion for your massage career. Massage tables are portable for a reason, right?
The Reality of Red Tape, Reciprocity, and Licenses
You likely have heard about traveling nurses, and may be thinking if you could do the same as a massage professional. Today, nurses can travel to needed locations, get sign-on bonuses, work for a few months, and return home. Honestly, this isn’t something that exists in massage therapy right now. And nurses are far ahead of us in their license portability with their Nurse Licensure Pact (NLP) that allows them to work in other compact states.
But that does not mean there are no opportunities out there for traveling massage therapists that want to travel and work.
Maybe you have dreams of:
- Traveling back and forth between your current home and your snowbird home in Texas, Florida, or Arizona.
- Living in your RV and calling your campground home for the next two weeks.
- Backpacking through Europe and living out of an Air BnB or hostel.
Let’s address a few questions you may have about this adventure. There are lots of misconceptions and things I think you should know before you begin. I have written about license reciprocity for years. Here are a few:
I am NCBTMB, or Nationally Certified. Can’t I work anywhere?
As I mentioned above, true reciprocity does not exist in massage therapy. We do not have a compact like nurses. The NCETMB was never a “national certification” that allowed you to work anywhere without obtaining a license. You certainly can use your NCETMB scores to get a license (as they do not expire – even if your certification does). If the state you want to practice massage in requires a license, you need to get a license in that state.
If I am in a state for less than two weeks, do I really need a license?
I am not aware of any states that have short-term massage licenses for traveling massage therapists. It is usually an all or none type of deal. Some have temporary licenses that allow you to work while you are waiting for your license to be issued. But this really is not all that common.
You can and should always read the laws and rules of any state you plan to practice massage therapy in. All of them are different and you need to comply with the laws and rules of the state where you practice.
Board websites often are the best source of information on applications, laws, and current rules. Do not hesitate to call or email them if you have questions.
If I barter for massage, do I even need a massage license?
Many states do not limit the definition of “compensation” to just money. If you are being compensated for massage, you likely need to have a license.
Again, check with the laws and rules, state boards, and a lawyer when you have any doubts or legal questions.
I want to work abroad as a massage therapist. What do I need to do?
I am not going to lie. Navigating each country’s laws and rules, language barriers, work visas, and government requirements is going to be tricky. But it can be done.
You will find some countries that have bare minimum requirements for massage therapists, like England. In that case, I suggest looking into ITEC training if you do not have previous massage training. You may find other countries that use ITEC or VTCT for massage therapy qualifications.
Here is a table with massage regulations in European countries.
Attention: Military Families
Thankfully, many massage therapy boards have made license reciprocity easier for those in the military or military spouses. If you are a military family moving around, be sure to contact the state board about military or military spouse applications. Some boards will waive CE requirements as well as application and renewal fees.
What else do I need to consider?
I cannot stress knowing the laws and rules in your state, or where you plan to open up shop (temporarily or permanently) enough. Remember, the purpose of massage boards and licensing is to protect the public from unqualified practitioners.
This means, when necessary, get the background check, massage establishment license, or anything else you need to get a license. You are a professional.
Tell me about your traveling massage therapist plans!
Do you plan to live out of your vintage Airstream full time, spend a few months each year visiting friends and family, or work as a massage therapist in the Philippines for a year or two? I really want to hear about it. Also, it will help other massage therapists thinking of doing the same.