Today, it is 2 degrees Fahrenheit in Montreal and 82 degrees in Miami. In Miami, there is no snow, North Face jackets, or Kamik boots. There is just sunshine, miles of sandy beaches, and the relaxing sound of waves crashing.
It may be the lure of warmer weather, lower taxes, or family that has made the move before you bringing you to Florida. Truthfully, I have a feeling it is the weather. Why? Each winter, I get more and more emails just like this:
I am a Canadian massage therapist and want to move to Florida. What do I need to do to get a massage therapy license in Florida?
Often, I need a little more information to give a person clear directions. Many U.S. therapists think that all Canadians have 2200 hours of training. But that isn’t correct.
Canadian massage requirements vary between provinces, much like requirements here in the States. Currently, only four provinces regulate massage therapy on a provincial level. If massage therapy is not regulated by the provincial government, there is a professional association for massage therapy in that province which has established standards of practice.
Your steps to licensure in Florida will be similar to most transfers from U.S. states. However, you will need to complete a few additional requirements if you are not a U.S. citizen or did not attend a massage program in the United States. Because of this, you should allow for extra time to get your license issued (which I will explain later). I’ve broken this process down into five basic steps.
Grab a double-double and let’s get started on the process one step at a time.
Step 1: Take A 10-Hour Florida Massage Laws and Rules
If you were moving to a different providence in Canada, you most likely would need to take a Jurisprudence test as part of the reciprocity steps. Florida requires something similar, a 10-hour Florida Laws and Rules course. The laws and rules course can be taken online on this website. This is the best place to begin the process because you will need to mark off that you took the course when you apply for your license.
You can find the 10 Hour Laws and Rules course, with my step by step checklist here.
Step 2: Apply for Your Massage License
You can apply online here, or print off the paper application to send. The cost is currently $155 USD.
Before you apply, you are probably a little curious about how your educational past lines up with Florida’s minimum requirements.
What are the educational requirements for Florida?
Each state has different requirements. Florida requires official transcripts to show the completion of a course of study with a minimum of 500 clock hours. Most Canadian RMTs have no problem meeting this requirement.
Endorsement vs Examination
One of the first questions you will see on your application is asking if you want to apply by endorsement or examination. When you apply for your license, you will likely see that the board website says to to apply by examination if you hold a license from out of the country. The website also says the endorsement option is for those that hold an active U.S. state massage therapy license. However, some applicants say they have been told to apply by endorsement by board employees. So, I would check with them when applying.
* Please contact the board before having your education evaluated too. As of this year, some applicants have been told their education DOES NOT need to be evaluated by a credentialing agency. But read the below just in case things do change.
For foreign-trained applications, the stated requirements by for Licensure as a Massage Therapist by Examination can be found in Chapter 480.041, F.S. and Rule Chapter 64B7-25, F.A.C.
“Outside the United States: If the school you attended is located outside of the United States, the school must be approved by the Department of Education or an equivalent licensing authority in the country in which it is located. Transcripts and supplemental education documents should be translated into English by a translation service or credentialing company. These education documents will be evaluated by the board at one of its regularly scheduled meetings.”
When you apply, you will need to answer a simple question about where you obtained your education with no clear instructions about what to do next. And this will likely lead to a letter back from the board office that goes something like this:
This letter is in reference to your application for massage therapist licensure. Upon initial review, your application has been deemed INCOMPLETE for the following reason(s):
Your application indicates that you completed your education outside of the United States. Please submit certified translations and evaluations of your educational credentials, including documentation showing that the massage therapy program was approved to operate by the proper agencies (Board or Ministry of Education, Board of Massage, government licensing authority, etc.). Your application will be reviewed by the Board at a regularly scheduled meeting once all supporting documentation is received.
How you can prevent this delay?
Most of the time, this documentation information can be obtained from the school you attended. They can provide a transcript (in English), including documentation showing that the massage therapy program was approved to operate by the proper agencies. “Proper agencies” are your regulated or unregulated provincial associations (I listed all of those at the bottom of this post).
Contact your school and make the request for them to send these documents directly to the board office in Florida. Most schools have experience in providing this information to state board offices.
How long does it take to get a foreign education reviewed by the board?
You have quite a few opportunities to get on the board’s agenda. The Board holds meetings quarterly (January, April, October, and December) around Florida. But these are not the only times you can have your foreign education reviewed. In March, June, September, and December the board has conference call meetings to review applications, including those with foreign education.
Step 4: Complete A Board-Approved Exam
One of the requirements to get a Florida massage license is a Board-approved exam. As of right now, I am not aware that any of the Canadian provincial massage exams on are on the list of accepted exams.
Florida Board-Approved Exams:
- New York State Massage Exam (Determined as an equivalent exam in 2017)
What if I haven’t taken one of these exams?
If you haven’t taken one of these exams, you may need to schedule and take the MBLEx (Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam). It is currently the only Florida Board-Approved Exam that is still administered. However, I would verify the need for taking this exam with the board office before proceeding with this step.
In short, the MBLEx is a 100 question entry-level massage therapy exam. This exam cannot be taken online, but can be taken in Pearson Vue centers on a daily basis. It is administered by the FSMTB (Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards) and the cost is $265. The MBLEx is given in English and Spanish (no French translations).
Need to study for the MBLEx?
Some Canadian transfer applicants use my MBLEx program to prepare, others do not. Either way, the website will provide you with lots of information on taking the MBLEx. Truthfully, most RMTs have had sufficient science education, but want to brush up on kinesiology, U.S. tax information, and the wording of ethics questions.
Step 4: Fingerprints
All applicants must undergo a level 2 background screening to obtain a license under the Department of Health. This means you must get fingerprints done at a Florida Board of Massage approved fingerprint provider. I suggest www.fieldprintflorida.com for locations in and outside of Florida.
Step 5: Get your SSN or TIN and Work Permit
We actually need to back up a little. Before you get your fingerprints and take your exam, you will need a nine-digit SSN (Social Security Number) or TIN (Tax Identification Number). All U.S. citizens are required to use a Social Security Number as their TIN. But non-citizens (Green Card Holders) can also obtain and use their Social Security number as their TIN. Here is an article with tips just for Canadians.
An SSN is different than a work permit. And one snag many run into is that you must first have a job offer from a U.S. employer who will sponsor you for a work permit/visa. Once you have a job offer, you can apply for a work permit.
You can now apply for both a work permit and SSN at the same time.
How long will the entire process take?
The good news is that I rarely see any major issues with Canadian transfers. In fact, I see them less than many State transfers. Canadian programs are respected and most transfers perform well on the MBLEx.
However, you have more variables than most applicants (obtaining an SSN/TIN, possibly sitting for the MBLEx, and a review of education at a Board meeting). These extra steps delay the licensing process. Planning ahead will be your biggest challenge.
Ready to start? Here are the 5 steps again.
1. 10-hour Florida laws and rules course
- My 10-hour Laws and Rules course is available in an online format here.
2. Apply for your massage license
- Provide board with proof of foreign education
3. Obtain an SSN/TIN and Work Permit/Visa
4. Take MBLEx (if needed)
5. Obtain Fingerprints
- I suggest Fieldprint Florida.
Enjoy the weather!