You’re learning so many new terms in massage therapy school—to think that not too long ago you had no idea what the word fascia meant! Some of the new words you may have heard tossed around may be licensure and certification. What do these two words mean to you? Are they equally important? To get to the answer, let’s start with one important fact: In 48 out of 5o states, you need some kind of credential to work as a massage therapist. That means that you must have some form of license to practice massage therapy professionally.
Are license and certification the same? No, they aren’t, and the reason they aren’t is because each state has its own laws regulating the industry.
Now, because each state has its own regulations, and because most of the time states require licensure, the most important credential for you, after graduating massage therapy school of course, will be passing the MBLEx, an exam which tests your knowledge of the practice of massage therapy.
In 44 out of the 48 states previously mentioned (plus Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands), you are required to take and pass the MBLEx to become licensed to practice as a massage therapist.
Regional Director of Admissions, Jessica English explains, “The MBLEx is the exam that most people looking to be nationally certified take. Most states accept this as their state exam and can be used as proof of knowledge along with whatever non-exam requirements each state has in place in order to get licensed in individual states.”
To recap, licensure is extremely important as you will most likely need it to practice in your state, therefore making the MBLEx vitally important.
Now let’s move on to certification. Although certification isn’t necessary to practice in any state, and board certification is waning in popularity, some massage therapists choose to become nationally certified by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) as a form of prestige or as an extra credential. Although recent graduates will immediately want to take the MBLEx, board certification is usually sought after by massage therapists only after many years of professional practice. For the most current information about the relevancy of board certification and whether or not it is something that you should aspire to, speak with your instructors and school administrators as you near graduation.
A good guideline to help you remember the difference between licensure and certification is on the American Massage Therapy Association’s website which explains it as follows:
Professional certification is a voluntary process by which a non-governmental professional organization grants recognition to an individual who has met certain qualifications.
Licensure is a non-voluntary process by which an agency of government regulates a profession.
For the full AMTA description, click here.
FLSM students will need NYS licensure as NY is one one of the few states that doesn’t fall under the MBLEx, though they do get more than enough education for that exam.