The NCBTMB Research Requirements for Board Certification

On January 1, 2013, NCBTMB launched a new credential, Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCTMB). Therapists achieving this credential demonstrate a strong foundation to better serve their clients and demonstrate a commitment to raising the standards of the profession that have remained stagnant for over 20 years. Achievement of Board Certification is the highest attainable credential level in the massage therapy profession.  As in other professions, Board Certification serves as an additional differentiator for advanced level therapists. The Board Certified therapist will renew every two years, and incorporated in the renewal requirements are three hours of research. The Massage Therapy Foundation President, Ruth Werner, discusses the value of research in the blog below.

The NCBTMB Research Requirements for Board Certification

Written by:

Ruth Werner
President, Massage Therapy Foundation

On January 1, 2013, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) introduced a higher level credential Board Certification. This credential was created to identify those massage therapy professionals who have a particularly advanced level of education, experience, and skill. To be Board Certified in massage therapy is an indication of the highest levels of expertise in the United States.

Among the requirements for maintaining a one’s Board Certification status is a commitment to receiving three hours of continuing education specifically dedicated to the topic of research within each 2 years renewal cycle of the Board Certification term.

The NCBTMB consulted with the Massage Therapy Foundation about what exactly these classes should entail. The Massage Therapy Foundation took this to their Education Committee, and arrived at the following criteria:

To be a recognized research-related continuing education event, the primary topic of the presentation must be research related in terms of massage therapy, complementary, alternative, integrative and/or healthcare disciplines. While classes on other concepts or techniques that provide their evidence base are valuable, they are not research-focused classes.

The Foundation’s Education Committee identified three main types of research classes, although overlap can certainly occur:

  • Research literacy classes: these are classes that help participants build skills in finding, reading, evaluating, and applying research findings to their practice. The Massage Therapy Foundation fundraiser Basics of Research Literacy (here) fits this description.
  • Research capacity classes: these are classes that help participants develop their skills in conducting small or large-scale research project. Topics for these classes might include writing case reports, how to do a research poster, experimental design, qualitative versus quantitative research, understanding statistics, or other related issues.
  • Research findings: these are presentations in which the findings from articles or projects are presented. Scientific presentations where researchers describe the processes and outcomes of their projects meet this criterion, as long as the research pertains specifically to massage therapy, complementary, alternative, integrative medicine and/or healthcare disciplines.

In addition, the NCBTMB will give research credit to massage therapists who complete a case report and submit it for publication to a peer-reviewed academic journal, and to massage therapists who volunteer as peer reviewers on massage-related research for academic journals.

The NCBTMB offers a list of Continuing Education Providers who list research classes among their options. That list can be found here: Simply type “research” into the course name/keywords box to find an extensive list of classes.

The Massage Therapy Foundation is dedicated to the vision that the practice of massage therapy is evidence-informed, and accessible to everyone. Our mission moves us in this direction through the support of scientific research, education, and community service. We are delighted that the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork recognizes the importance of research literacy for Board Certified massage therapists, and we are eager to continue this collaboration, to advance research as a cornerstone of the massage therapy profession.


As a Quick Reminder about Transitioning into Board Certification from National Certification

First, please gather the necessary documentation requested for this process:

  • School transcripts, continuing education certificates and, if needed, college transcripts. Each applicant will have to show a total of 750 hours of education using these documents.
  • 250 hours of hands-on work experience. This can be submitted in the form of a letter from an employer, copies of schedule books with the last names blacked out or a letter describing hands-on experience.
  • Current CPR certification.
  • Copy of legal identification.

Once this information has been gathered, please email and request a user name and password for your account. Once your user name and password has been delivered via email, please log-in to the top of the website and verify your personal information. Click the “Verify” button at the bottom of the page.

Go to “Complete a Form” and complete the “Transition to Board Certification” form. When this step is complete, go back to “Complete a Form” and choose the “Board Certification Documentation Upload” form. Once the documentation is uploaded, the process is complete.