The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE) has announced the publication of a position paper entitled, “The Optimal Role of National Certification in the Massage Therapy Field.” Authored by AFMTE Executive Director Rick Rosen, L.M.B.T., this paper is based on perspectives gathered from the education community, conversations with leaders of other stakeholder organizations, as well as a careful analysis of the structure and function of mature professions.

The AFMTE is proposing a dramatically different operational model for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). This is needed because the core components of licensure and certification in the massage therapy field have been reversed.

According to Rosen, “Now that we have licensure in most states, entry-level certification has been rendered unnecessary and redundant as a first credentialing step for those coming into the field. NCBTMB now has an excellent opportunity to upgrade and reposition its existing national certification program to a graduate-level credential. This would take the place of its forthcoming National Certification in Advanced Practice, and would provide a solid foundation for future development of a series of specialty certification programs. Certification in specialized areas of practice is a major missing component that the field of massage therapy must have to become a full-fledged profession.”

The paper provides a historical perspective on how national certification for massage therapists came into existence as a voluntary credential in the early 1990s; how its use shifted when the National Certification Examination was adopted by many states as a mandatory test for licensure; and how that landscape has radically changed now that more than 80 percent of massage school graduates are taking the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination.

As AFMTE is interested in solutions that both benefit its members and advance the field as a whole, a three-step reorganization plan for NCBTMB is outlined at the end of this document. In addition to the changes recommended for the structure of certification itself, the NCBTMB is being encouraged to sunset its approval program for continuing education providers–and adopt the new CE approval program being developed by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards in collaboration with the AFMTE. Once in place, this new single-source program will provide a unified system for the approval of both CE courses and providers.

The position paper may be downloaded from the AFMTE website at

About the AFMTE

The Alliance for Massage Therapy Education is the voice, advocate and resource for the community of massage therapy schools and educators. It serves the entire education sector–from entry-level training programs through post-graduate studies. The national headquarters of the Alliance is located at 1760 Old Meadow Road, Suite 500, McLean, Virginia 22102. The phone number is (703) 506-2888, the general office e-mail address is and the website is