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  • Julie Marciniak

How to Become a Massage Therapist in NC

Are you looking for a career change? Do you like working with people? Or have you always wanted to be a massage therapist and wondered what is required to be a massage therapist in North Carolina? Keep reading for all the info you need to know to become a massage therapist in NC!



In 1992, when I graduated from the Carolina School of Massage in Carrboro, NC, becoming a massage therapist was simple. There were no state licensing requirements; you just had to attend an approved school and graduate. Shortly after, the first National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork exam became available. For a time, North Carolina state used this exam as a requirement for licensing. It's been renamed the Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork(BCTMB®), and today is just a certification, not required for licensing.


The process to become a licensed massage therapist in NC is a little more complicated and EXPENSIVE now, so allow me to break it down into five steps.


Attend and graduate from a board-approved school.


Currently, massage therapy is licensed in North Carolina and regulated by The North Carolina Board of Massage & Bodywork Therapy(NCBMBT). To become a massage therapist in North Carolina, you have to complete at least 500 hours at a board-approved massage therapy school. Different schools offer programs ranging from 6 to 12 months, depending on if you choose to go full-time or part-time. When I was in massage school, it was a six-month program, Monday-Thursday, and cost $5000. Today it's a lot more expensive, ranging from $8,500-$15,000 for tuition, which may or may not include books and supplies. There are grants and scholarships you can apply for, and if you are military or a military spouse, the Post 9/11 GI bill will pay for massage therapy tuition and supporting fees at an eligible school. So there are options out there to help pay for tuition, you just need to look.


You must obtain a passing score on the MBLEx.


The MBLEx is the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination governed by the Federal of State Massage Therapy Board. It's a two-hour exam with 100-item multiple-choice questions and costs $265.


Take the Jurisprudence Learning Exercise (JLE).


The JLE is a test of the Practice Act, the Rules, and laws of the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy. A 100% passing score is required, but you can take the test as often as you need to pass. The ultimate purpose of this test to make sure you understand the rules and regulations under which you are allowed to practice massage. The goal is to protect the public and you.


Request an application from the NCBMBT.


You'll have to submit supporting documents, and the total cost is $190 ($150 license fee + $20 application request fee + $40 Criminal History Report fee.) If approved, you are free to charge and practice massage therapy for two years. The renewal fee is $100 every two years and requires 24 Continuing Education hours, which should at least 3 hours of ethics.


Get a job or set up your massage therapy practice!


Many massage therapists choose to get a job right out of school in a spa, massage chain, or medical clinic to gain some experience before venturing into self-employment. It provides an opportunity to figure out what specialty you'd like to develop more. Massage school only introduces you to a few modalities such as Deep Tissue, Swedish, and Sports Massage, and others depending on the school. It's after school when you start continuing education classes that you begin to deepen your learning, advance your new skills, find what you're good at, what types of clients you enjoy working with, and explore other modalities like Ashiatsu barefoot massage or Cupping. Read more about niches. Self-employment right after massage school is possible but can be daunting, and it may take a while to build up a substantial practice with regular paying clients.


Massage Therapy has been a rewarding experience for me personally, and I can't imagine doing anything else. I love helping people find alternatives to dealing with chronic pain. It took me a couple of years to figure out where I wanted to be, then I ran into issues with repetitive strain and longevity, but I figured out how to extend my career with barefoot massage training. I even went back to school to specialize in Rolfing Structural Integration. Read more about my experience here.


A career in massage isn't for everyone. It's hard work, physically, mentally, and emotionally.


Don't let anyone tell you it's easy! You're dealing with people one-on-one every day. It can be messy, stinky, disgusting, demanding, and so much more, yet beautiful, exhilarating, and satisfying at the same time. And don't get into massage thinking you're going to make a ton of money. Some schools tell students that and they come out of massage school with unrealistic expectations. It IS possible to make a good living doing massage, but it takes a while. Setting up a massage therapy practice with all the licenses, equipment, and other fees can be overwhelming, especially if you have student debt to deal with as well. Finding a veteran massage therapist to talk to and possibly mentor you would be invaluable, and I highly recommend it. Find someone whose work you admire or enjoy and has a thriving full-time practice.

The internet is full of information and can be overwhelming at times. I hope my blog simplified becoming a massage therapist process and helped you make an informed decision. If you decide to pursue this career, I'm so excited for you! When you're done and looking for continuing education hours, consider ashiatsu barefoot massage training. I've taught students right out of the classroom and veterans that have been in the business for years. I wish I had learned ashiatsu sooner, but I'm glad I found it when I did! Best wishes on your journey.



Check out our barefoot massage classes at NC Ashiatsu.com if you are looking for longevity in your massage career. We are the Durham campus for the Center for Barefoot Massage and we specialize in the advance myofascial ashiatsu barefoot training. Follow us on Facebook or Instagram.


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