What Is The Difference Between A Massage Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Massage Therapist, & Massage Therapist Practitioner?

The massage therapy industry has been going through a big boom in the past few years. The amount of people wanting to become massage therapists have increased. As a result, the number of students graduating from massage school has increased considerably.

However, there is still some confusion about the different titles given to massage therapists working in the field. The biggest confusion that you may face is between the definitions of licensing and certification. Even apart from that, there are also a couple of other terms that you need to know about.

Once you know about the different titles given to massage therapists, you will be able to make better decisions regarding your career, especially when it comes to certification and licensing. The more credentials you have as a massage therapist, the more reputable you will be considered. It could lead to you attracting more customers and consequently, making more money.

However, for that to happen, you need to understand which credentials will prove to be the most beneficial. Here is an overview of the various titles generally given to massage therapists who are currently working:

Massage Therapist

As the name suggests, any person who has received the necessary training and education for massage therapy is a massage therapist. Whether or not that person is allowed to practice his/her skills professionally depends on the licensing and certification they obtain after graduation. So, by definition, a massage therapist is anyone who has the knowledge and expertise required for performing massages.

Certified Massage Therapist

Being certified means that a professional has agreed to adhere to a certain standard of quality when it comes to providing services. To be certified, a massage therapist needs to prove that he/she meets the necessary standards of service in the field.

The certification attests that the massage therapist is on the accepted level of service or has managed to exceed it. Certified massage therapists generally get more clients than non-certified massage therapists. Moreover, they may also be referred to by doctors and other customers.

There are many different factors which are taken into account when determining whether or not a massage therapist should be granted the certification. Some of them include the specialization, expertise and experience in the industry.

One thing you do need to keep in mind is that applying for certification is voluntary. You are not required to do so and when you opt for it, it is an indicator that you are confident that your services will meet the necessary standards of quality followed in the industry.

Receiving your certification means that you have gotten a seal of approval from those who have knowledge of the industry. This is one reason why customers consider certified massage therapists more credible and reputable than non-certified ones.

Therefore, it is a good idea that you go ahead with being certified. If you know that your services are up to the mark and you can satisfy your customers, there should be no problems for you along the way. It can only help your career.

Licensed Massage Therapist

Many people confuse the terms licensed and certified. Often you hear people saying that a massage therapist is certified when the fact is that he/she has just obtained their license. Being licensed only allows you to work professionally.

As mentioned above, you have to volunteer to be certified. In that case, you have an option. If you feel that you are doing fine without being certified, there is no reason for you to put in the time and effort required to get certified.

When it comes to licensure, the situation is the opposite. There is no option here. Getting licensed is a non-voluntary process which you have to abide by if you want to work as a massage therapist. If you don’t get licensed, you will not be allowed to work.

There are 44 states that have a professional body which governs massage therapists. This means that without a license, you wouldn’t be able to work in 44 states of the US. The fact that it is compulsory in itself means that you don’t have a choice. You have to apply for a license right after you graduate.

There are various administrative bodies that regulate massage therapists. You have to find out about the authority that governs massage therapy in the place you live in, so that you can obtain a license after graduation. You can do this utilizing our comprehensive map of the United States here. Simply click your State and read up on all the licensing requirements.

There is no point in delaying what needs to be done. Hence, it is important that you apply for a license right after you graduate. This way, you wouldn’t have to wait to find work in the massage therapy field.

The bottom-line is that to be certified, a massage therapist must be licensed first. If a massage therapist doesn’t have a license, he/she cannot be certified. The difference is quite clear: you have to be licensed if you want to work as a massage therapist but you don’t have to be certified.

Massage Therapy Practitioner

The title itself is quite self-explanatory. Any person who practices massage therapy is a massage therapy practitioner. However, this would mean that MTP means the same as a massage therapist. The two terms are, in fact, different.

A massage therapist has the knowledge and training to perform massage therapy but is not allowed to do so under a professional status until he/she gets a license or a certificate. On the other hand, a practitioner can be someone who has the necessary licensing and is allowed to practice massage therapy as a profession, or simply someone who practices massage whether or not they posses the certification or license.

All legally practicing massage therapy practitioners are either licensed or certified, but in some states they can be both. This is the exception however and not the norm. For example, some States do not have licensed status. In those states, a certified therapist is the highest stature of a practitioner. The opposite can be true for States that do not have a certified status and only have a licensed (LMT) status.

As far as making money is concerned, a certified or licensed massage therapist has the highest salary. Since people trust certified therapists, they are willing to pay more for the reliability. They are certain that the therapist will adhere to the highest standards of ethics and business practices when performing massages. Note that these are generalizations. There are exceptions in every professional field that are driven by all kinds of variables.

Now that the differences between these terms have been clarified, you should be able to make better sense of the different titles used for massage therapists. Knowledge and awareness are critical in your success now and later; and that is precisely what we focus on here at the MTSI.

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+

23 comments on “What Is The Difference Between A Massage Therapist, Licensed Massage Therapist, Certified Massage Therapist, & Massage Therapist Practitioner?
  1. Diane says:

    Your website is very helpful. This is a very tricky subject, especially in Ohio. “All massage therapy practitioners are licensed but they need not be certified. Thus you can consider this title almost synonymous with a licensed massage therapist or an LMT.”
    In Ohio a massage practitioner does NOT have a license and in no way is synonymous with LMT.
    I’m hoping we can create more clarity as we move forward, thanks for starting the effort!

  2. Marcia says:

    I am in jamaica and I am checking on whether a person is licensed/certified to practice massage therapy. What does FPG mean as it relates to education in this field?

  3. Shannon says:

    I am in California, I just received my “aroma touch” certification through doTerra. Can I do this aromatherapy touch technique under my chiropractor and/or at my home or people’s home and charge for oils, not charge for massage? And do I need to be insured?

  4. Clarke says:

    Michigan requires a license to legally call yourself a massage therapist. If I find someone who is certified in massage (unlicensed), very competent and highly skilled, is it ethical and legal for me to see them and compensate them, as long as they use massage practitioner and not massage therapist?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Clarke, you are asking a question from a customer’s perspective. As a customer, you may decide what’s ethical and acceptable to you. Money is simply a means to exchange value. If you feel you’ve received value, we can understand you reciprocating by providing money

  5. Anastacia says:

    In Washington state A Licensed Massage “Therapist” and a Licensed Massage “Practitioner” Are the Exact same thing. LMP has to be used legally because Physical therapist, through a legal hissy fit making it illegal for massage therapist to use the word “Therapist” in their title. Therefore LMT became LMP, Same requirements.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      that is good insight Anastacia. do you feel this type of movement is going to become more common because of the chiro/therapist lobbyist? how has your experience been so far with this? does it impede your career/success and clientele?

  6. Ugyen Dorji says:

    Clearly written on the difference between the various level of Massage profession. Many of us think they are same and address them same… But they do have different level, from which we can get understand and expect accordingly….

  7. Debra Sommer says:

    I am an RN, CMT, LMT, Reiki Master and have training in Craniosacral Therapy. I work at an alternative health clinic and treat a variety of physical, mental and emotional ailments. Some of my clients are referred from MDs, acupuncturists, chiropractors, pain clinics, and workmans comp. I have been looking for a title that describes what i do as a practitioner. Can I call myself a Clinical Massage Therapist?

  8. Joy says:

    I’m in school to become a certified massage therapist in Los Angeles. I have clients that want to receive body work but my school says I can only take donations since I’m not licensed yet. Is it okay if I have a set donation price saying “suggested donation amount $20.00” for example ?

  9. gloria says:

    If a person is board certified in equine massage therapy are they able to then teach others and certify them as a massage therapist. Of course having a curriculum 50 hours plus / following guidelines given for doing so. and if so ..what are those guidelines?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Gloria, there are separate requirements to teach vs practice. we have articles specific to your state that go through how to become a massage teacher. please read these

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