In the United States, massage therapy is regulated on the state and local level. This means that if you are already a licensed massage therapist in one state and arm moving to another state, you will have to obtain a massage license from their state board in order to practice in that state. In some states, you can get licensed by reciprocity, endorsement or credentials.
What is Reciprocity?
Reciprocity, endorsement and credential licensure all mean that the state to which you are applying provides some recognition of your current licensure. You will find that this means very different things depending on which state you are applying to.
In most cases, reciprocity is only allowed if you are licensed in a state which has substantially equivalent license requirements as the state you are moving to. Most states currently require 500 hours of training at a state-approved massage school, as well as passing a national qualifying exam, such as the MBLex.
States without State Licenses
Wyoming, Vermont, Minnesota, Kansas, California
In states without a state licensing board, you will not have to get a state license. However, there may be city or county requirements to be able to practice massage. You will have to check local laws to know what qualifications and/or documentation is required.
States without Reciprocity
Utah, Texas, South Dakota, Oklahoma, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Iowa, Hawaii, Connecticut, Arkansas
Some states, such as South Dakota, Maryland, Hawaii and Oklahoma, do not have a specific reciprocity or endorsement license. If you have met their requirements for licensure you can apply, regardless of what state you obtained your training in.
Therefore, in states such as South Dakota, you can use the same application form whether you are a recent graduate or an established therapist. You just have to show that you have completed those requirements.
In these states, when a national exam is required, there is no recourse for a therapist who was licensed in a state that did not require a national test at the time of licensure. You would have to take the MBLEx to get licensed there. Hawaii currently has its own state test that you must pass.
Some states, such as Iowa, Connecticut and Maine, do not have a reciprocity license, but do require you to provide information on the status of your current license, in addition to all the other information on the application.
Other states, such as Arkansas, Texas, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Utah, do not have any reciprocity licenses. You must meet the current requirements of the state to apply for a license. Because these states specify not only the number of hours of education, but also how those hours must be distributed among different topics, if you got your education from an out of state school, you will have to show that your hours of training meet their laws.
This may require you submitting a transcript, your school catalog, or a form certified by your school showing the coursework. If your school transcript does not meet their requirements, you may be required to attend an in-state school for a number of hours before being granted a license. In some cases, Arkansas may allow you to appeal to their board for licensure if you cannot produce all the documentation required.
States with Reciprocity
Wisconsin, West Virginia, Washington, Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Ohio, North Dakota, North Carolina, New York, New Mexico, New Jersey, Nevada, Nebraska, Montana, Missouri, Mississippi, Michigan, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Idaho, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, Colorado, Arizona, Alaska, Alabama
A number of states allow you to apply for licensure by endorsement or reciprocity, if you are currently licensed in a state with substantially equivalent requirements. However, their application process requires you to provide all the same documentation as a new in-state applicant, as well as verification of your current licensure from the state you are currently licensed in.
They may also require you to take an in-state law exam or continuing education related to state laws and rules. Mississippi, Alabama, Montana, Illinois, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Nevada, Missouri, Indiana and New Mexico are included in this group.
States like New York and Nebraska require 1000 hours of training rather than the 500 required by most other states. In some cases, under certain conditions, if you apply for a license in these states, they will allow you to substitute continuing education hours or experience for some of the training. You may find licensure by endorsement in these states complicated because they have a number of options and conditions to meet. Similarly, states like Kentucky that require 600 hours may allow you to appeal to their state board for a hearing to determine if your education and experience is considered adequate.
States such as Louisiana, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Washington, Virginia, New Jersey and Alaska may exempt you from providing a school transcript and/or national exam results if you have a license from a state that they consider to have substantially equivalent requirements.
Similarly, Arizona does not require test results or transcripts if you have been licensed for at least 5 years by a state with substantially equivalent requirements. Michigan and Ohio do not require a school transcript if you have been licensed and practicing in another state for at least 5 years. Delaware will not require a school transcript if you have been licensed and practicing in another jurisdiction with substantially equivalent requirements during the two years prior to applying for a Delaware license.
Florida requires a school transcript, but doesn’t require you to provide test results if you had to pass a national test to get your current license. Colorado requires that you be actively practicing for the 2 years before applying, or have 24 continuing education hours.
If you are looking to get a reciprocal license in Tennessee, you have two options. You must either provide proof of education and testing OR provide verification of licensure and active practice in another state for the five years preceding your application.
Similarly, in Oregon you can apply using the same form as an initial applicant OR (for an extra cost) have a credentialing review if you have been practicing for many years in another state and may not meet the traditional educational requirements.
In North Carolina you can choose to apply as an initial applicant, apply for endorsement based on licensure in a previous state or based on credentials if you worked in a state without licenses.
How Long Does it Take for Reciprocity to Process?
Because the laws and rules in each state are different, and because obtaining a massage therapy license in a new state may require additional documentation or even a hearing before the state board, you should plan as far as possible in advance when moving from state to state as a massage therapist.
In addition to license information, test results and school transcripts, you will often have to get a background check from the state you are moving to, which may take weeks or months. Even after all the required information is received, a state board may take anywhere from 7 days to more than 3 months to approve your license and allow you to begin working in that state as a licensed massage therapist.