A Vitally Important Opportunity for the Massage Profession
If you would like to express your interest in the legislative process surrounding California licensing, or volunteer to be active in support of that goal, please email email@example.com with the subject line "California Licensing."
The California massage therapy community has an opportunity to join 45 other licensed states by instituting professional licensing in place of the current uneven, incomplete voluntary certification process administered by a private organization, the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). ABMP’s Government Relations team has been working hand in hand with appropriate legislative committees and the American Massage Therapy Association to advance massage regulation that we believe would best serve the profession and the public going forward.
We believe this is the right path for California massage regulation, and we believe with the support of the massage community we can meet this opportunity and create a better environment for massage and bodywork professionals.
Why Does ABMP Support California Licensing?
ABMP believes that requiring licensure for all California massage professionals would help practicing professionals by providing consistent rules, a level service environment for all practitioners, reasonable fees, and due process protections for therapists accused of improper behavior. Specifically:
Required Licensing Provides Clarity, Consistency, and Safety
Forty-five states license massage therapists, and three of the other four states besides California are considering instituting licensing because it works both for professionals and the public. A standard license provides clear-cut guidance on how to find a true professional, enabling the public to easily find licensed providers and giving law enforcement a simple way to verify a professional’s ability to practice legally. Proposed licensing also would enhance public protection by restoring a requirement that new licensees pass a recognized national profession entrance examination as a demonstration of knowledge and readiness to practice. For massage therapists, licensing provides a legally recognized scope of practice and consistent fees, requirements, and ground rules that would level the playing field for all practitioners.
The CAMTC is Outdated and Unjustifiably Expensive
In 2008, political constraints forced a temporary but imperfect solution to the pursuit for full professional licensing, resulting in voluntary certification through the private CAMTC entity. CAMTC initially worked well, but it has outlived its usefulness. Now, 13 years in, CAMTC has become unnecessarily self-serving and costly—the entrenched, well-compensated senior staff largely controls board member selection, and there are no board member term limits. CEO compensation is roughly quadruple that of Department of Consumer Affairs board leaders. The board is also hyper-focused on human trafficking, which has reduced attention on professional standards, created unnecessary bureaucracy in the school approval process, and resulted in a 33 percent increase in therapist-certification fees in 2019. CAMTC certification does not cover all massage therapists in California, thereby weakening public protection and confidence.
The Proposed Bill Protects the Interest of All Massage Therapy Constituencies
ABMP has worked closely with the Assembly Business and Professions Committee to craft the details of the legislation, including automatic transfer to license status for current CAMTC certified practitioners and alternative entry paths for those not currently certified. Two-year license fees are capped at a lower level than the $300 cap at CAMTC. Based upon our experience in other states that adopted licensing, we are also confident that requiring licensure will bring more massage therapists out into the open, potentially easing supply challenges cited by numerous large employers of California therapists.
To be crystal clear, neither ABMP nor any others voicing opinions about California massage regulation advocate returning to pre-CAMTC days when hodge-podge, inconsistent, sometimes demeaning local government regulation of massage therapy prevailed. Voluntary certification via CAMTC starting in 2009 was an improvement. Many ABMP California members have secured that certification. The situation simply is ripe, arguably overdue, for evolution to an improved third phase of massage regulation.
What is the Current State of the Legislative Process?
In spring 2021, your ABMP Government Relations staff sensed an opportunity to seek a transition to required licensure for all California therapists. We began creating a support team and developing necessary analyses and bill drafting. We thought it possible to get a licensing bill passed in 2022.
Events undercut this aspiration. Key legislative committee leadership changed, which in turn delayed making public release of our background work and follow-on conversations with key constituencies. Our focus has now shifted to getting a bill passed in the 2023 legislative session.
If there is a silver lining, it is that in connection with a March 18 Joint Sunset Review Oversight Hearing, ABMP was able to release publicly draft legislation describing how we would see massage licensing working along with a required 60-page Sunrise Questionnaire. Two caveats about the draft legislation: First, it was drafted thinking licensing could begin January 1, 2023, so all the dates in it will now need to be pushed forward one year; and second, as is the case with all new legislation, this is a first draft which will be open to discussion and negotiation.
For those ABMP members currently holding CAMTC Certified status, our draft bill provides for seamless transfer of that status to a massage license with no extra payments, no new application, no test requirement, and no repeat of fingerprinting or background checks you already went through with CAMTC.
We will continue to update this page as more legislative developments occur and will work to provide information that speaks to the specifics of how this legislation will affect all diverse circumstances massage professionals may be in with regard to CAMTC certification, educational history, and other details.
Key Documents and Recent Updates
- Draft California Massage Therapy License Bill, March 16, 2022, public release
- This proposed draft bill has been circulated to legislators and entered into the record. When introduced in a future legislative session, dates will be amended.
- California Massage Therapy Sunrise Review, March 7, 2022
- ABMP produced this document required by the California Assembly Business and Professions Committee.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is there a licensing bill being introduced in 2022? What is the status?
- If this new bill becomes law, when would it go into effect and what would it require?
- I am currently certified by CAMTC and have a number of months before I need to renew. If this bill becomes law, how will it affect my status?
- I am not CAMTC certified. How can I qualify for a license?
- I understand the new law proposes that 12 hours of continuing education be required for each two-year license renewal period. Why so, and when will that requirement be effective?
- How much will a California Massage Therapy License cost?
Due to changes in legislative responsibilities, there will not be a licensing bill introduced in the 2022 session. ABMP was able to present our Sunrise Report and circulate the bill we drafted to legislators shortly prior to a CAMTC Sunset Informational hearing on March 18, 2022. ABMP is now working to secure the ability to have a bill filed in the 2023 legislative session.
The new bill would go into effect January 1, 2024. Everyone practicing massage therapy, as defined in the proposed law, would be required to secure a state license in order to continue practicing, to use the title “Massage Therapist” (or related terms and abbreviations), and/or to advertise as someone offering massage therapy services.
So long as you are in good standing as a CAMTC Certified massage therapist on December 31, 2023, your certification will automatically be converted to a California Massage Therapy License. In effect, you will be legacied in to license status, independent of the amount of massage therapy education you provided evidence of to CAMTC.
You will not have to pay any additional fees until what would have been the expiration date of your two-year CAMTC Certification. You will not have to repeat fingerprinting or a criminal background check, because you already satisfied those requirements when you were certified by CAMTC. You will not need to take and pass an entry-level examination. (Note: assuming the bill becomes law, a newly created California Board of Massage Therapy would commence work on January 1, 2024. To give that board time to get organized and issue licenses, it will have until March 31, 2024, to complete the task of issuing approximately 50,000 licenses. Until you receive your license, your CAMTC certification will be considered an acceptable substitute.)
If you meet current CAMTC requirements for certification, including graduation from an approved massage school whose curriculum is at least 500 hours, then you can apply for that certification prior to December 2022 (allowing time for application processing) and then have your certification convert to a state massage license in early 2024.
If you do not meet those requirements, the proposed law offers two alternative routes:
A) Provide a copy of federal tax returns showing that you earned income from providing massage therapy services in at least three of the five years among 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and 2023; or
B) Take and secure a passing score on the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
These two routes are available through March 31, 2025.
California has a history of shorter massage education hour requirements than numerous other states. Currently, at least a 500-hour massage education is required for CAMTC certification. At the same time, several states recently raised their core education requirements to 600–700 hours. To compensate, a continuing education requirement was included in the proposed new California law. Individuals whose certification carries over into 2024 or 2025 will not have to meet continuing education requirements at their first license renewal, only at subsequent two-year renewals.
Worth noting, ABMP has 700-plus online continuing education hours available free to all its members in the ABMP Education Center. The California Board of Massage Therapy will decide which continuing education hours will satisfy their criteria. Your ABMP staff pledge to work to ensure that distance-learning hours such as it offers will qualify.
The new Board will decide. However, CAMTC currently charges $200 for a two-year certificate (up from $150 during its initial eight years of operation), and they are authorized to go up to as high as $300. ABMP pledges to try to persuade the Board to set the fee at less than the current CAMTC fee. The median two-year license fee for the 45 states that currently require massage therapists to be licensed is $140. California government agency costs are higher than those in most other states, enough so to offset economies of scale from a large California pool of massage therapists.
If you would like to express your interest in the legislative process surrounding California licensing, or volunteer to be active in support of that goal please email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line "California Licensing."