Burr Ridge, Ill. (August 3, 2018)—The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) announced today key changes to its Board Certification requirements and corresponding Board Certification Exam, effective immediately.

To further align with healthcare professions and embrace similar competency-based criteria, NCBTMB announced the following new Board Certification requirements as of August 3, 2018:

  1. Graduate from a NCBTMB Assigned School
  2. Passing score on the NCBTMB Board Certification Exam
  3. Pass a criminal background check (performed by NCBTMB)
  4. Verification of current massage therapy state licensure
  5. Agree to uphold NCBTMB’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice

NCBTMB removed its previously mandated 750 hours of education and 250 hours of professional, hands-on work experience. ­­

“Over the past few years, and at the request of the profession, NCBTMB has diligently reviewed levels of massage therapy education across the country. We recognize how important hours are in education, particularly when it comes to CE—which always has and will continue to be a vital component of our certification program,” explained Donna Sarvello, VP of Educational Support. “What we have learned, however, is that not all foundational hours are created equal and, furthermore, are not always indicative of a therapist’s success on the Board Certification Exam. For that reason, NCBTMB supports the theory that competency-based criteria are a better indication of a therapist’s success.”

Sarvello continued: “In addition to the new requirements, we felt strongly that the Board Certification Exam be strengthened to reflect the needs of the profession. This was further confirmed with the profession’s request for an updated exam in our recently completed Job Task Analysis. The dedicated members of our Item Writing Committee—subject matter experts with decades of experience—worked tirelessly to research, identify, and write new questions to create a rigorous exam worthy of the profession’s only true certification program. This exam and the competencies required to achieve a passing score will further ensure therapists’ success in the medical profession, when working as part of an integrative healthcare team, or simply to differentiate themselves from entry-level licensed therapists.”

As part of the process, medical and allied healthcare professions were researched to determine what, if any, educational requirements were mandatory for certification. As expected, competency was often not measured in foundational hours but rather in assessment-based exams and proof of continued education. Such findings were the impetus for changes made by the NCBTMB.

“For over 25 years, our mission has been to define and advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession,” declared Teresa M. Matthews, President. “In the 1990’s, NCBTMB accomplished this through National Certification—the nation’s first true certification exam to separate educated massage therapists from others with no formalized training. In 2013, NCBTMB raised its standards, elevated the contents of the exam, and changed the name to Board Certification to alleviate confusion in the profession and align with the healthcare model. Today, in 2018, we introduce a new avenue to achieve Certification and better position our therapists to meet the demands of the medical field.”

Matthews continued: “We embrace and acknowledge therapists come from all backgrounds—and we believe everyone who meets the requirements should have the opportunity to achieve the profession’s highest credential. If a therapist did not graduate from a NCBTMB Assigned School or completed international training, the Portfolio Review process is still a viable, alternate avenue to achieve Certification.”

Board Certification renewal requirements remain mainly unaffected. However, 100 hours of hands-on work experience is no longer required.

Application cost for Board Certification remains at $250 with an additional $25 background check fee. Candidates requiring Portfolio Review will be assessed an additional $75 fee.

For more information on Board Certification Requirements, or to apply, click here or visit https://www.ncbtmb.org/certificants/.

For a breakdown of the revised Board Certification Exam categories, click here.


The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) is an independent, private, nonprofit organization founded in 1992. The mission of NCBTMB is to define and advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession. In support of this mission, NCBTMB serves the profession through Board Certification, Specialty Certificates, an Approved Provider Program, and an Assigned School Code Program. For more information, visit www.ncbtmb.org.

Source: NCBTMB.org