Are you a massage therapist moving to the United States? Looking for some advice on where to begin or what you may need to do to get licensed? Welcome!
I have helped thousands of massage therapists transfer their massage licenses in the United States from one state to the next. The process for many is fairly similar since most of them have:
- their education was obtained in the United States and measured in hours, with a minimum of 500 hours
- completed a board-approved entry-level massage exam, such as the MBLEx
- an active massage license in another state
These three things make the process very similar for state-to-state “transfers”. We also call that reciprocity or endorsement.
On the other hand, foreign/international education often is accompanied with multiple certificates, varying educational hours or ITEC levels, no licensing exam, no massage boards or regulatory massage agencies, or licenses with combinations with other professions (such as cosmetology or esthetics).
To say the least, it often gets complicated. So my answer to the question about how to start the process is often complicated too. Sorry! But I am still going to try to help guide you through the process and what it may look like for you. Since I mainly deal with Florida applicants, there will be specific information included to help those of you moving to Florida get started. Just remember, every state is different, I am not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice. If you have any specific questions, contact the state massage board or a U.S. lawyer for advice. Okay, let’s begin.
Where do you start with the application?
Review the state massage therapy application or apply for a license. To do that, simply search for the state massage therapy board in the state you want to move to.
For example: Florida Massage Therapy Board
Or here is a link from ABMP with all of the state board websites and their state requirements: State Massage Boards
You should be able to find an application on each board’s website and some information about massage therapy licensing in that state. Again, each state is different, but most have the instructions and minimum requirements with their application or listed in their FAQs.
Get your transcript ready
Transcripts from other countries are often different, need to be translated, and almost always need to be evaluated.
Often a board will require that your education be evaluated to see if it meets their minimum requirements. They may be able to do this “in house” or they may have you send it to an outside agency to have this done.
From what I understand, the Florida massage board now recommends this agency if an evaluation is needed. I suggest asking the board if this is needed first, because it can be expensive.
Prepare to take an entry-level exam
Most states required you to take an entry-level massage examination. The MBLEx is the most common entry-level examination used in the United States. It cannot be taken online. The MBLEx costs $265 per attempt and is available in English or Spanish. It is 100 multiple-choice questions.
Need to study? If you need to study for the MBLEx, here is a resource to help you prepare to pass your MBLEx: Massage Exam Academy
Get fingerprints or background check, if needed
A background check is a growing requirement in many states. You may need to get fingerprints done and a background check to get a massage license.
Florida does require a background check for massage therapist applicants. You can learn more about the fingerprinting requirement for Florida here.
Learn your laws and rules
Every country has different requirements, regulations, scopes of practice. This is the same for states. Some states allow massage therapists to do certain things while other states do not. You should always review the laws and rules A few states will require a laws and rules course, or a jurisprudence exam.
I also have a cosmetology, nail, hair, skincare, or esthetics license. Do you have any advice for me for getting a license in Florida?
The Florida Cosmetology Board is completely separate from the massage board. Here are some tips on transferring a cosmetology (hair, nails, or skincare) license to Florida
Are there any states without licensing requirements?
Yes! A few. But, I will say that you may still run into issues in these states with practicing massage. Often in these states, massage therapy can be regulated at a local level (city or county)- so you may still have some minimum requirements to meet.
Do you have any advice for Canadians moving to Florida?
If you are a Canadian moving to Florida, here is some more information for Canadian RMTs.
If I have a license in one state, can I work in every state?
No. There is not a national license at this time. Massage is not regulated on a federal level, only a state level. You can only legally provide massage therapy in the states where you are licensed to provide massage therapy.
I hope this helps you get started with your journey. I wish you the best!