There are no nationwide laws regulating the practice of massage therapy, although several individual states have laws in place that protect both consumers and practitioners. In states with laws, massage therapists have to demonstrate specific knowledge, as well as complete a certain number of hours of education.
In states without regulation, massage therapists are not required to demonstrate professionalism through minimum educational requirements. In these states, consumers need to be proactive about asking the practitioner about their background in massage therapy. For those states that do regulate massage therapy, practitioners have to meet certain requirements in order to be licensed, including a minimum number of education hours and passing an exam. Also, in states with regulation, a massage therapist must have a license to practice massage therapy.
Licensing is the primary way states with laws governing massage therapy regulate the profession. One of the primary requirements for a massage therapy license is a set number of education hours. The number of hours needed varies by state, but many have a minimum requirement of 500 hours, with some requiring up to 1,000 hours of education specific to the massage therapy profession. In some states, massage therapists need to complete an adult first aid and CPR class. Practitioners also need to take continuing education classes throughout their career and show their state's licensing body proof of completion on an annual or biannual basis, depending on location.
States regulating massage also require massage therapists to pass a certifying or licensing exam, as well as any state-specific exam that is in place. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork offers a certifying exam that tests a massage therapist's knowledge of core skills. The licensing exam developed by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards aims to test entry-level competence of massage therapists. Every state regulating massage therapy requires one of these examinations. Massage therapists and consumers can check with their state's massage therapy regulatory board to determine which test is necessary.