For Students

Whether you’re just starting school or perhaps entering your last semester, it’s important you know where you may fit in the massage therapy and bodywork profession. As former massage students, instructors, current practitioners, Board Certificants, and a versatile group of hardworking professionals, we know what it’s like to just be starting out. The decisions you make throughout your academic career will undoubtedly shape your future in our evolving profession—and getting to know NCBTMB and learning more about Board Certification means you’re on the right track. We’re glad you’re here!

Below, we invite you to explore several fun, educational, and reliable study tools and testimonials to ensure you’re making the best choice for your professional future. Take a look around. If you have any questions as you’re exploring, we welcome you to give us a call at 1-800-296-0664 or email us at info@ncbtmb.org. Our Customer Service team is happy to answer any question—simple or otherwise—when you need it.

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General Board Certification Info

How To Apply For Board Certification

Assigned School Info

Study Tips/Tools & Activities


General Board Certification Info

What is NCBTMB?

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) is an independent, private, nonprofit organization founded in 1992. Our mission is to define and advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession. In support of this mission, we serve the profession through Board Certification, Approved Providers, and Assigned Schools.

Why should NCBTMB be important to me?

As you consider what your career pathway will look like, it’s important to know what tools will help you get there. Whether you’re looking to become Board Certified, attend an Assigned School, or maybe someday teach and become an Approved Provider, NCBTMB is the only organization to help you accomplish all of those things—and will actively work to promote your accomplishments, once achieved.

If you want to be more than just an entry-level massage therapist, Board Certification is for you. You must attend an NCBTMB Assigned School and know your Assigned School Code to register and sit for the Board Certification Exam.

I passed my state licensing exam. Does that mean I am certified?

Not necessarily. Please check with your state (and any other states in which you practice) to see what requirements are necessary.

Board Certification is a higher voluntary credential. If you have never taken a certification examination, you will have to in the future. Remember, licensure means that you have met the minimal requirements to practice legally within the profession. Board Certification shows that you have gone above and beyond minimal requirements.

As in other medical professions, employers look at credentials when deciding who to hire. Don’t stop at minimal requirements. Help us raise and advance the standards of massage therapy through Board Certification.

Check out a full list of all state board websites here.

What is the difference between Licensure and Board Certification?

Licensure is a mandatory, entry-level credential required by most states. If you are licensed, it does not necessarily mean you are certified. You will need to check your state requirements, as well as any other state(s) you wish to practice in, to see what is required for you.

Board Certification is the highest voluntary credential in the profession. Achieving Board Certification shows a deeper commitment to the profession by meeting greater educational and work experience requirements, passing a criminal background check, and more.

What are the requirements for Board Certification?

To become Board Certified, you must meet or exceed the following requirements:

  • Pass the Board Certification (BCETMB) exam
  • Complete 750 hours of education, including:
    • Hours completed in your massage therapy program (required),
    • Continuing Education taken from an NCBTMB Approved Provider, and
    • ANY courses taken from ANY accredited college or university.
    • Apprenticeships do not count toward educational hours.
  • Complete 250 hours of professional, hands-on experience, including:
    • Hours completed over no less than six months from graduation.
    • Hour completed after the you graduated from a massage therapy program and began practicing legally within your state.
    • You must be able to show proof that you were licensed at the time in states/municipalities that require licensure.
    • NCBTMB will only accept work experience that meets all state/local requirements for the practice of massage therapy.
    • Apprenticeships do not count toward work experience hours.
  • Pass a thorough criminal background check (performed by NCBTMB)
  • Agree to uphold NCBTMB’s Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
  • Agree to oppose Human Trafficking

The cost to apply for Board Certification is $250 for the application and exam fee. It is an additional $25 for the criminal background check fee (performed by NCBTMB).

How much does it cost to become Board Certified?

The cost to become Board Certified is $250 for the application and exam fee.

A $25 background check fee also applies (performed by NCBTMB).

Why should I become Board Certified?

If you’ve begun looking for a job recently, here’s something you should know: Board Certification is now recognized by many health care facilities, and even some high-end spas, to help fill rewarding positions—which means Board Certification is often required to apply, providing numerous benefits for both practitioners and the public.

As a Board Certified Massage Therapist, your benefits may include:

  • Recognition by third parties and other professions, such as health care
  • Increased credibility and professional reputation among peers and the public
  • Commitment to lifelong learning through continuing education to advance your skills
  • Demonstrated higher level of knowledge and skill with the credentials to back it up
  • Increased opportunities for career advancement
  • Potential for increased earnings with access to higher-level positions

As an added benefit, NCBTMB performs a criminal background check on each of its therapists when they apply and again each time they recertify—reassuring employers and the public they are working with a reputable and trusted massage therapist.

Your clients will thank you, too. Based on feedback we’ve received, clients have reported several benefits, including:

  • Confidence in selecting a dedicated professional committed to excellence in their chosen profession
  • Validation of a chosen professional’s knowledge and skills with credentials that matter
  • Appreciation for a chosen professional’s significant accomplishment
What does a typical career pathway in massage therapy and bodywork look like?

The career path for a massage therapist really depends on the individual person. People enter our profession for many different reasons. There are many different avenues for current and future massage therapists. Some of these different avenues include:

  • Part time/full time massage therapy practitioners
  • Home office
  • Specialty modalities or specific work
  • Work in different health care settings
  • Work in the spa setting
  • Work with athletic teams in all of the states
  • Teaching core curriculum
  • Teaching Continuing Education in an area of expertise
How long does it take to become a certified massage therapist?

Once you graduate from a legitimate massage therapy program and begin working, you should begin thinking about becoming Board Certified. The next steps would be to:

  • Begin working within the massage therapy profession,
  • Sign up for the Board Certification examination,
  • Utilize NCBTMB’s Online Practice Exam to best prepare for the Board Certification exam,
  • Sit for and pass the Board Certification examination, and
  • Receive the Board Certification credential.

Keep in mind: Every Board Certified massage therapist must have 750 hours of education and must have been working in the profession for at least 6 months. Board Certificants also are required to document a minimum of 250-hours of professional, hands-on work experience. You have two years from your graduation date to fulfill the minimum work experience requirement.

The 750 hours of education is a cumulative of massage therapy school, any continuing education taken from an NCBTMB Approved Provider, and any courses taken from an accredited college or university. If you do not have the hours of education first, please refer back to your school. If your school isn’t offering additional education, look for courses from NCBTMB Approved Providers.

Who should I contact at NCBTMB if I have questions about Board Certification?

We invite you to please contact us at 1-800-296-0664 or by email at info@ncbtmb.org. Our Customer Service Team is available Monday through Friday, 8am to 5pm CST.

Where can I connect with NCBTMB on social media?

Many of NCBTMB’s most exciting news, stories, and events are promoted on our various social media platforms. We invite you to please join our growing communities as we educate, encourage, and elevate the massage therapy and bodywork profession.

How to Apply for Board Certification

How do I apply for Board Certification?

Apply for Board Certification entirely online with these simple steps:

  • Login to the NCBTMB websitewith your username and password.
  • If this is your first time taking an NCBTMB exam, please create an account by clicking "Register" at the top of the NCBTMB homepage.
  • If you do not remember your username and password, please email info@ncbtmb.org.
  • Once logged in, click “Complete a Form” under the “Forms & Applications” section.
  • Click the “Board Certification Application.”
  • Complete all necessary information.
  • Utilize the “Board Certification Document Upload Form” to upload any necessary documentation.
  • Submit your payment.
  • Submit both forms.

That’s it! Contact us at info@ncbtmb.org or by calling 1-800-296-0664 with any questions.

Where do I go to take the Board Certification exam?

NCBTMB partners with Pearson Vue, a computer-based testing solution, to administer the BCETMB exam. Pearson Vue has multiple testing centers in each state; most centers are open 5-6 days per week.

Once you are eligible to schedule your exam, you can search all testing locations available (as well as the dates and times) to conveniently schedule your exam within your eligibility period. Simply log in to your account on the NCBTMB website, and click “Schedule Exam” on the left-hand side of your profile page. Here, you will be redirected to Pearson Vue’s system where you can search locations, view dates and times available, and schedule your exam.

Can I sign up and take my Board Certification exam if my work experience is not completed yet?

Yes! You can apply for Board Certification and sit for your Board Certification exam, even if your work experience is not completed at this time. You will have two years from the date you graduate to complete the required work experience.

Please note that you will NOT earn your Board Certification credential until you have passed your BCETMB exam, as well as prove you meet ALL requirements.

Assigned School Info

What is an NCBTMB Assigned School?

An NCBTMB Assigned School is an institution researched and approved by NCBTMB, proving the school is legitimate, operating legally and meets our minimum curriculum requirements of 500 hours of education.

NCBTMB Assigned Schools are awarded an Assigned School Code once programs are approved. This code is required for students like you to sit for the Board Certification Examination.

How do I know if my school is an NCBTMB Assigned School?

All Assigned Schools who meet NCBTMB’s requirements are awarded a six-digit reference number, otherwise known as an Assigned School Code. You will need your Assigned School Code in order to register and sit for the Board Certification exam.

What do I do if my school is not an NCBTMB Assigned School?

Students graduating from a school without an NCBTMB Assigned School Code will not be able to attain the Board Certification credential—however, if you find yourself in this situation, give us a call: 1-800-296-0664 or email us at info@ncbtmb.org. We’ll help you figure out if there is an alternative route to Board Certification for you.

Study Tips/Tools & Activities

What do I need to know for the Board Certification exam?

The Board Certification exam contains 160 questions and you will have 160 minutes (or approximately 2 ½ hours) to complete the exam. Content found on this exam embraces application of technique and is assessment based—simulating real-life scenarios you will more than likely encounter as a certified massage therapist.

The BCETMB exam is built around four main categories:

  • Communication (10-12%)
  • Law and Ethics (8-10%)
  • Evaluation, Planning, and Documentation (34-37%)
  • Massage and Bodywork Techniques and Application (43-46%)

To download the full BCETMB breakdown, click here.

Is there a tool to help me study for the Board Certification Exam?

Yes! NCBTMB is proud to offer our exclusive Online Practice Exam, which contains Level 1 (entry-level) questions to better prepare you for any licensing exam, as well as Level 2 questions to better prepare you for the Board Certification (BCETMB) exam.

The NCBTMB Online Practice Exam is the only study tool created by NCBTMB for the NCBTMB Board Certification exam.

For more information on the Online Practice exam, click here.

For a list of resources utilized to create the Online Practice Exam, click here.

What are the major massage therapy and bodywork organizations I should know?

NCBTMB is proud to work with many of the profession-leading peer organizations listed below.

  • ABMP: Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals
  • AFMTE: Alliance for Massage Therapy Education
  • AMTA: American Massage Therapy Association
  • COMTA: Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation
  • FSMTB: Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
  • MTF: Massage Therapy Foundation
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