Credentials for the Massage Therapy Profession

Credentials help inform a consumer about the qualifications and competency of a massage therapist. Massage therapy credentials include the following:


Most states regulate the massage therapy profession. Depending on the state, this could be in the form of a license, registration or certification. Cities, counties or other local governments also may regulate massage.

Licensing is the strictest form of professional regulation, making it illegal for anyone to work as a massage therapist unless he or she has a license.

Board Certification

Massage therapists may choose to become board certified in massage therapy. The board certification is administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). Individuals who meet standards of education, training and/or experience and pass the examination are entitled to use the designation Board Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork and its initials, BCTMB. Board certification indicates that these massage therapists possess skills, abilities, knowledge and attributes to practice, as determined by the National Certification Board.

Education and Training with an Accredited School

Standards for education and training can assist the consumer to know whether a massage therapist has adequate preparation to practice. AMTA recommends a minimum of 500 hours of supervised, in-class initial massage therapy training, which must include the study of anatomy and physiology, the theory and practice of massage therapy, and elective subjects.

Statewide massage therapy regulation will define the minimum initial massage therapy training requirement.  Most require a minimum of 500 hours of training, but some require 1,000 hours (e.g. New York).

One way of knowing whether a training program or massage school provides a nationally-recognized standard level of education is to see if it is accredited by a credible agency, i.e., one that follows the guidelines of the U.S. Department of Education.

Membership in a Professional Massage Therapy Association

Membership in a credible professional association indicates professional preparation and accountability. The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) is the largest non-profit, professional association representing massage therapy and was founded in 1943.  AMTA requires members to meet minimum education requirements, pursue continuing education and uphold its Code of Ethics.

Learn more about the differences between certification, licensing, and accreditation.

"As a professional member of AMTA, I have found comfort in knowing that all the effort I put into obtaining my massage certification is recognized and protected. AMTA standards validate the profession."

Kim K., AMTA member since 2003