Not sure which massage licensing exam is best for you?
Do you wonder which exam is accepted by your state board or which one gives extra letters to put after your name? A lot has changed regarding entry level massage licensing exam within the past few years.
Here is a little advice, insight, and direction from someone who has taken, and passed, both the NCETMB and the MBLEx.
To clear up which exams are available and which are not, let’s start with a chart.
|MBLEx||NCETMB / NCETM||NESL||BCTMB|
|Is this an entry level licensing exam?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Is this exam currently available?||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Will this exam make me “Nationally Certified”?||No||Not Anymore||No||No, but will give you “Board Certification” from the NCBTMB|
|Will this exam make me “Nationally Licensed”?||No||No||No||No|
|Who provides this exam?||FSMTB||NCBTMB||NCBTMB||NCBTMB|
|Does this exam require continuing education?||No||Not Anymore||No||Yes|
As you can see, you only have a couple of exams to choose from: the NCETMB/NCETM or the MBLEx.
Here is another comparison chart to show the difference between these exams.
|MBLEx||NCETMB / NCETM|
|States that accept the exam||States Accepting MBLEx||States Accepting NCETMB|
|Eligibility||You can take the MBLEx at anytime. Before, during or after massage training.||You may take the exam before massage school graduation, but your score will not be released until the NCBTMB receives your school transcript.|
|Number of Questions||100 Questions||125 Questions|
|Time Limit||2 hours||2 hours and 5 minutes
(plus 10 minutes for tutorial and 10 minutes for comments following the exam)
|Category Percentage Breakdown||MBLEx Breakdown||NCETMB Breakdown
|Language Availability||English and Spanish||English|
Now a little bit more background on the exams and the organizations which oversee these exams.
NCETMB and NCETM
The NCETMB/NCETM are adminisered by the NCBTMB, one of the oldest and most recognized organizations in the massage therapy field. The NCBTMB struggled after the successful role-out of the MBLEx by the FSMTB. Many, many changes were, and are, being made to the NCBTMB organization.
Are these the exams that give you “National Certification”?
The NCETM/NCETMB was used as a voluntary credentialing exam and a entry level licensing exam. After you took the NCETMB/NCETM you could use the letters “NCTM” or “NCTMB” after your name (this is the voluntary credential). This was really important if you lived in a state that had no educational requirements or licensing laws (e.g. States where you could not use “LMT” because there was no licensing board).
Now most states regulate and license massage therapists, and therefore, the NCBTMB needed to evolve. The NCETM and NCETMB are now both used as entry level licensing exams, like the MBLEx. Entry-level licensing exams help you get your license and the important letters “LMT” after your name (or CMT, RMT, LMP).
Years ago after you took the NCETMB/NCETM, you could also say that you were “nationally certified”, which was a somewhat confusing term. “Nationally Certified” did not imply that you could work in any state under a national license, but rather that you were certified by a national board.
The NCBTMB recently phased the NCBTM credential out and rolled out a new “board certfication”.
The new BCTMB
In 2013, the NCBTMB released a new “Board Certification” exam, the BCTMB. This exam replaces “National Credential” they are phasing out, the exam that gave massage therapists the “NCTMB” letters after their name. The BCTMB is not a licensing examination. It is another voluntary certification exam.
The NCBTMB states: “This new credential requires fulfilling additional qualifications, including more education, hands-on experience and a background check. Therapists achieving this credential will have the proper foundation to better serve their clients and demonstrate a commitment to raising the standards of the profession that have remained stagnant for the past 20 years.”
You can read more about the BCTMB exam and the requirements to sit for this exam here.
The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). The FSMTB is a board made up of members from each participating state’s massage board. This structure is similar to how the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), the administrators of the Nursing Board Exam (NCLEX), is organized.
The MBLEx was introduced in October 2007 as an entry level exam for massage licensure.
It is now a very popular choice and has received positive reviews from test takers.
Who is eligible to apply to take the MBLEx?
Anyone can apply to take the exam, regardless if they have a few months left to complete massage training, or if they have been out of school for years. This should help speed up the licensing process (and earn a living as a massage therapist) for most of you.
Like the NCBTMB exams, the MBLEx is given at pearson vue centers around the country.
The FSMTB does a great job of answering questions about why they believe the MBLEx is the best choice for an entry-level examination other there website. I highly recommend reading this before making a choice about what exam is best for you.
Why I prefer the MBLEx
I have been a massage therapist for over thirteen years now. In that time I have witnessed many changes in the massage community. The number of states licensing massage therapists has more than doubled, therefore reinforcing the need of a entry-level licensing exam and reducing the need for a voluntary credential.
I have watched some massage organizations adapt to the changes in our profession, while others have failed to do so.
When I developed my study guide and prep course, I made the decision to focus on the exam I felt was best for the massage profession, both short and long term.
If your state accepts the MBLEx, I would recommend it without hesitation.
Both ABMP and AMTA, two of the most respected organizations in the massage field, support and endorse the MBLEx.
I have helped many people prepare for MBLEx, pass, and get their massage license. I would love to help you too.
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, L.M.T. (Iowa #02648 and Florida #MA66325)
Additional Contact Information
Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
7111 W 151st Street, Suite 356
Overland Park, Kansas 66223
Current Fee: $195
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: $185 (NCETMB/NCETM Option)
Photo Credit: cocoen