Not sure which is massage licensing exam is best for you?
Do you wonder which exam is cheaper, easier, is accepted by your state board, or gives extra letters to put after your name?
Here is a little advice, insight, and direction from someone who has taken, and passed, both the NCETMB and the MBLEx.
First, we have the exams that have been around for years: The National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), the National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage (NCETM), and the National Exam for State Licensure (NESL).
These exams are all administered by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).
This exam is accepted by most state boards.
Who can take the NCETM/NCETMB?
The eligibility criteria to sit and test for NCETMB/NCETM:
A minimum of 500 hours of instruction as follows:
- 125 hours of body systems (anatomy, physiology and kinesiology)
- 200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, theory and application
- 40 hours of pathology
- 10 hours of business and ethics (minimum of 6 hours in ethics)
- 125 hours of additional instruction in an area or related field that theoretically completes the massage program of study
This exam is a little longer and more expensive than the MBLEx.
For years, massage therapists complained about the inclusion of Eastern (Asian) theories, such as meridians, on the NCETMB.
The NCBTMB listened, and offered a new option of the exam, the NCETM.
To maintain your NCTMB/NCTM certification/credential, you need to complete 48 hours of continuing education and pay the $100 fee every four years.
Note: If you do not need, or want, the extra letters after your name, you are not required to renew your “national” or NCTMB/NCTM certification/credential when it expires.
You must wait until you graduate from training to take this exam (although you can take the NESL option before graduation).
The NCETMB/NCETM does give you a credential that can help distinguish you from other massage therapists in areas where licensing is unavailable.
These are the extra letters after your name that I was talking about (e.g. Ivy Hultquist, NCTMB)
What is the NESL Option?
The NESL exam is the same exam as the NCETMB, but it is a non-certifying/credentialing exam.
It is used if you just want to take the test for your state licensing and do not wish to carry a NCTMB certification.
- It basically serves the same purpose as the MBLEx.
- It costs less then than the NCETMB, NCETM, and even the MBLEx.
- It can be taken before completion of massage training.
The NCBTMB was due to release the NCAP (Nationally Certified Advanced Practice) certification, but those plans have been scrapped.
There is a new “Board Certification” they will be phasing in this year.
You can go to the NCBTMB website to learn more about this change.
The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.
It was introduced in October 2007 as an an entry level exam for massage licensure.
It is a very popular choice and has received good reviews from test takers.
It is now accepted by most state regulatory boards as an entry level licensing exam.
Check here to see if your state accepts it.
The exam is composed of 125 questions, focusing on eight areas of massage and bodywork including:
- Client assessment and Treatment plans
- Benefits of Massage
- Pathology and Contraindications
- Massage History
- Ethics and Boundaries / Laws and Regulations
- Guidelines for Professional Practice
- Anatomy and Physiology
Who is eligible to apply to take the MBLEx?
Unlike the NCETMB, anyone can apply to take exam, regardless of massage training.
It is up to state boards to verify a person’s massage training, not the FSMTB.
Unlike after passing the NCETMB, you are not “nationally certified” after you pass the MBLEx.
For most of you, your LMT, CMT, LMP letters after you name will come with your state license.
It is cheaper and shorter than the NCETM and the NCETMB.
There is no Eastern/Asian theory on the MBLEx.
It is an entry level exam only used to help obtain a massage therapy license.
You will not need to renew anything additional with the FSMTB, or take any additional massage continuing education courses (other than the hours required for your State license) as you would with the NCETMB/NCETM credential.
You can take the exam before graduation. This should help speed up the licensing process (and earning a living as a massage therapist) for most of you.
So there you have it.
I hope I’ve been able to provide you with the information necessary to assist you in making your licensing exam decision.
Are you ready for the next step?
I recently launched Massage Exam Academy. A study guide and exam prep service to help you apply, study, and pass the MBLEx.
I developed and used this material to help me pass my MBLEx exam, I know it will give you the knowledge and confidence to pass yours, too.
Still have a question?
Please feel free to ask a question in the comments below.
You may also email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would be happy to help!
Ivy Hultquist, LMT, NCTMB
Additional Contact Information
National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)
1901 South Meyers Road, Suite 240
Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181
Phone: 630-627-8000 or 1-800-296-0664
Current Fee: $225 (NCETMB/NCETM Option)
Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
7111 W 151st Street, Suite 356
Overland Park, Kansas 66223
Current Fee: $195