NCBTMB_ConfusionPin it

UPDATED February 2019

Those who have held the credential of National Certification through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) who are looking to renew their certification this year have been speaking out about their confusion over the new Board Certification credential. Here at the Institute for Integrative Healthcare Studies we have worked with the NCBTMB to get answers and hope to alleviate some of the common questions that are stumping NCBTMB members.

Let’s Start from the Beginning

Prior to January 1, 2013 a person held the credential of National Certification through the NCBTMB. Members holding this credential were provided with two options for renewal:

  1. Renew early, prior to January 1, 2013, and maintain your current credential – National Certification. This would allow you to continue with the National Certification credential for another four years. When your four years are up, you can only renew to the Board Certification credential if you meet the requirements.


  1. Don’t renew early and wait until your renewal is due. When you are due to renew your National Certification you would, instead, renew under the Board Certification credential if you meet the requirements.

For therapists who did not renew their National Certification prior to January 1, 2013, you can only now renew as Board Certified. But, Board Certification comes with additional caveats in order to be in compliance with the standards.

Becoming Board Certified

If you previously held National Certification and now need to renew, your only option for retaining a credential through the NCBTMB is to become Board Certified. To renew to Board Certification you must:

  • Show proof that you have completed a minimum of 750 hours of education, which would include the NCBTMB’s core program requirements and any continuing education
  • Show proof that you have completed 250 hours of professional hands-on experience over a specified period of time. The NCBTMB indicates that this proof could be in the form of a date book or a letter from your employer. (If you have other documentation or require other options for documentation we recommend contacting the NCBTMB directly for your specific needs.)
  • Maintain and show proof of current CPR certification
  • Complete the Board Certification application
  • Consent to a criminal background check on your application
  • Indicate in your application that you are committed to the NCBTMB Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
  • Indicate in your application that you are committed to opposing Human Trafficking
  • Pay a fee of $85

The Board Certification Exam – Does Everyone Need to Take It?

One very important area of puzzlement pertains to taking the Board Certification Exam. If you hold a National Certification credential and now need to renew to Board Certification you do NOT need to take the Board Certification Exam. The Board Certification Exam is only required for those people who have not held a credential with the NCBTMB and are now looking to become Board Certified. Those who have held no NCBTMB certification and want to become Board Certified need to meet the requirements above, in addition to taking the Board Certification Exam – and also pay a fee of $225-$250 instead of $85. (More information regarding this can be found at the NCBTMB’s website.)

If you wish to upgrade your National Certification credential to the Board Certification, and your current certification does not expire for two or more years, the NCBTMB recommends on their site: “…please email Type ‘Upgrade to Board Certification’ in the subject line and give us your name and certification number. An NCBTMB representative will return your email with directions explaining this process.”

What If I Don’t Meet the Board Certification Requirements?

Since many states with licensure legislation require a minimum of 500 hours of training to sit for a licensing exam, there are quite a number of therapists who currently hold National Certification but do not have the 750 hours of total education required for the new Board Certification. Therefore, many massage therapists are wondering what will happen to their National Certification when it comes due for renewal.

The answer is quite simple – either you obtain the additional hours you need through continuing education to obtain the 750 hours of education – or you will no longer have a credential through the NCBTMB.

There are some massage therapists who wish to obtain the Board Certification credential, but are a few educational hours shy of doing so. When we spoke with our contact at the NCBTMB we were told that these therapists should contact the NCBTMB directly to discuss their options. It appears that the NCBTMB will work with you on the best course of action to obtain those few remaining hours. On the other hand, if a massage therapist needs many hours in order to meet the 750 hour standard, they must begin courses right away so they can complete this supplemental education before it’s time to renew to Board Certification.

Why Did the NCBTMB Change the Credentials and Requirements?

There is a lot of speculation as to why the NCBTMB went forth with the new Board Certification credential, thereby eliminating the National Certification credential. The definitive answer obtained from the NCBTMB states:

“NCBTMB originally created a certification to support therapists in achieving excellence through licensure. Today, as we continue our mission to define and advance the highest standards in the massage therapy and bodywork profession, we are going beyond basic certification to allow you to demonstrate a much higher level of achievement.  NCBTMB and other stakeholders in the profession recognize the massage industry is at an interesting crossroads. Many therapists are practicing under stringent standards similar to other health care providers. However, there also has been a deterioration of standards necessary to uphold quality programs. In addition, fraudulent and illegal activity, such as human trafficking also exists, undermining our efforts. We believe the best way to establish greater credibility for therapists is to raise standards.”

Should I Become Board Certified?

This is a question that many in the profession will debate. Some states may require that you maintain a credential with the NCBTMB along with your state license. Some employers might insist that you obtain and maintain Board Certification. Keep in mind that Board Certification for massage therapy, similar to other healthcare fields, demonstrates to others that a specific level of training/competency has been met. With the Board Certification credential you are setting yourself apart from your colleagues as having met a more stringent standard in the field of massage therapy.

The NCBTMB provides the following Board Certification benefits:

  • Represents the highest standard in the field
  • Communicates a commitment to safe, ethical practice
  • Reinforces and underscores practitioners as healthcare providers on par with other professionals requiring certification
  • Reassures clients and employers that you are committed to excellence in your professional development and conduct
  • Requirements for this credential were established by practitioners within the field to uphold a high standard of excellence
  • Gains visibility and credibility
  • Provides a competitive edge
  • Increases employment opportunities within/between states
  • Will be highly promoted and publicized – at the individual and collective levels – by NCBTMB

Renewing Your Board Certification

The following are the requirements for renewing your Board Certification:

  • Consent to a criminal background check – even if you had to complete one for your state license renewal, you will need to have another check done through the NCBTMB, too. This is completely simply by signing the agreement portion of the application
  • Maintain and show proof of current CPR certification
  • Confirm your commitment to the NCBTMB Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
  • Indicate that you are committed to opposing Human Trafficking
  • Complete 100 hours of documented hands-on experience which can be in the following areas:
    • Massage therapy and/or bodywork (all types, including energy work)
    • Volunteerism
    • Administration
    • Teaching/teaching assistant
    • Curriculum development
    • Writing/publishing
    • Research
  • Complete 24 CE hours:
    • 3 CE hours must be in research* (The Institute offers courses pertaining to research, or you can search the NCBTMB’s website.) UPDATE! This requirement has been eliminated as of February 2019.
    • You cannot take more than 4 hours in courses on self-care
    • You cannot take more than 4 hours in courses less than 2 credits. UPDATE! This restriction has been eliminated as of October 2013.
    • The CPR training cannot be used toward the required CE hours
    • UPDATE! The NCBTMB reinstated the ethics requirement. 3 CE hours out of the 24 must be in ethics.

* To be clear, this research education is NOT required to become Board Certified. The research requirement is only for those who are already Board Certified and will need to renew their Board Certification every two years.

In Conclusion

We hope that this information has helped to eliminate some of the confusion surrounding the credential changes at the NCBTMB. If you have any questions regarding the Board Certification requirements or your renewal, please add a comment below this article, call the Institute at 800-364-5722 or send us an email through our contact form.

If you need additional hours to meet the 750-hour educational requirement you can take any of the Institute’s courses to fulfill this requirement.

If you need CE hours for your Board Certification renewal, our courses can also satisfy these requirements. Simply visit our NCBTMB page to review the requirements and browse our home study course offerings.

For assistance with questions pertaining to your specific recertification needs we recommend contacting the NCBTMB directly at 800-296-0664 or by email at If you have a Facebook account you might also consider contacting the NCBTMB through their Facebook page at