California Massage Therapy School Start Up Requirements

In California, massage therapist certification is voluntary.  The requirements for massage therapy certification and approved education are overseen by the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC).  In order for you to have an approved massage therapy school in California where your students are eligible for certification, your school must obtain approval from CAMTC.

Obtaining School Approval in California

Eligibility for Approval

If you have a school in California that you want approved by CAMTC, you must meet all of the following conditions:

  1. Your school must grant a diploma, certificate or degree in Massage Therapy. Schools that offer a different degree, but include massage in their curriculum are not eligible.
  2. Your school must provide a minimum of 500 supervised hours of instruction. The 500 hours must include a minimum of 100 hours of instruction in subject specified by the law and CAMTC, including anatomy and physiology; contraindications; health and hygiene; and business and ethics.
  3. Your school is not currently un-approved by CAMTC.
  4. Your school and massage program has to meet one of the following conditions:
    1. Approved by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE)
    2. Approved by the California Department of Consumer Affairs
    3. Accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities or the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
    4. A college or university of the state Higher Education System.
    5. A school in another state that requires greater or equal training as the CAMTC requires, and is approved by the massage therapy regulating body in that state.
  5. In order to maintain approval, your application for re-approval must be submitted to the CAMTC at least 6 months before your current approval expires.

If you are starting a private school, and not working within an existing college, to meet requirement 4, you would have to get approval from the BPPE or the Department of Consumer Affairs.

Bureau for Postsecondary Private Education

Based on information on their website, it may take more than a year to have an application reviewed by the BPPE.  Their application for approval of a non-accredited program requires a $5,000 non-refundable application fee.

You must provide the BPPE with information on the school’s location, business organization, owner(s), management, governing board, mission and objectives, student agreements, financial aid policies and practices, advertising and other public statements, instruction and degrees offered, a description of the educational program, information on instruction in a language other than English, financial resources, faculty, facilities and equipment, libraries and other learning resources, job placement assistance, catalog, graduation or completion documents, record keeping, and self-monitoring procedures.

Department of Consumer Affairs

You can apply for a license for a private post-secondary or vocational school online through the Department of Consumer Affairs website.

Application Process

Once you have approval from either BCCE or the Department of Consumer Affairs, you will have to apply for approval from the CAMTC.  There is a 24-page document that explains the details of applying for CAMTC approval.  The basic steps are as follows:

  1. Complete the application packet entirely and submit all requested documents.
  2. Pay the non-refundable application fee ($1,500) and any background check fees required.
  3. Host a scheduled site visit from CAMTC for inspection of the school.
  4. 180 days after an application is deemed complete, CAMTC will give you their decision. Your school may be approved, denied, or provisionally approved.  You may also be asked to take corrective actions before a decision is made.  For a new massage school, you can get provisional approval, which is valid for 180 days.  A second site visit after students have enrolled is required before full approval can be granted.

Documents required for the application packet include information on approval from one of the agencies listed above, school management, transcripts, enrollment agreements, course catalog, curriculum, faculty, facilities, and advertising.

To obtain and maintain your approval:

  1. You must use the name you applied to CAMTC with for all advertising and other publicity. Your school can only operate at the facility that was inspected and approved.
  2. Your transcripts must meet the format specified by CAMTC.
  3. You must a list of students that have met eligibility requirements for certification to CAMTC.
  4. Your enrollment agreements must meet the format specified by CAMTC.
  5. Your course catalog must be in the format specified by CAMTC.
  6. Your curriculum must be at least 500 hours with the minimum of the following hours in each subject:
    1. 64 hours of anatomy and physiology
    2. 13 hours of contraindications
    3. 5 hours of health and hygiene
    4. 18 hours of business and ethics
    5. The other 400 hours can be divided among other massage-related areas, and can include more hours in the above categories. CAMTC will determine whether your topics are massage-related.
    6. A maximum of 75 hours can be student clinicals, and they must be done under specific conditions, as specified by CAMTC.
  7. You cannot have more than 40 hours of instruction per week, and no more than 10 hours per day.
  8. You must have a syllabus for each course that meets CAMTC requirements.
  9. Your faculty must be qualified, according to CAMTC. They must complete and submit an instructor qualification form, hold a current certificate or license in the area they are to teach, have at least 2 years experience in the subject they are teaching, instruct only subject they are qualified to teach, and conform to the ethics requirements of CAMTC.
  10. Your facility must be appropriate in size and design for the number of students you are instructing, and must have sufficient reference material and instructional aids and equipment.
  11. Your students must pass the CAMTC approved examination at the rate required by CAMTC. If not, your school may be placed on probationary status and you will be required to provide CAMTC with a remediation plan.

CAMTC approval is good for 2 years, after which a renewal application must be filed.


If you want to start a massage school in California, where your students are eligible for California’s voluntary massage therapy certification, your school must be approved by the CAMTC.  The CAMTC approval process will take at least 180 days after you have submitted all the required material.

CAMTC will also require specific protocols for the school administration and curriculum, which are spelled out in its policies and procedures.  Prior to CAMTC application, you will have to have your school approved by another entity.  For a private non-degree school, the most rapid route would probably be to apply for a license through the Department of Consumer Affairs.  You could also apply for approval from the BPPE, but that process could take over a year.


California Policies and Procedures for School Approval

BPPE Application

Department of Consumer Affairs Online Application

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

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