How Massage License Reciprocity or Massage License Transfer Works

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.

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+

Posted in Career Considerations, State by State Requirements
14 comments on “How Massage License Reciprocity or Massage License Transfer Works
  1. Have had courses in nursing anaomony phy medial termonogly bonesture and massage therpy for pain relief is their not a test with all cretits i have that will let me take test in south carolina where i had all these courses

  2. Dana swanson says:

    I am currently licensed in Hawaii… wanted to transfer license to Arizona ..what are my requirements..??

  3. Deborah King says:

    Currently I’m graduating (December 2017) taking the board exam in January for Nys licensing. I’m moving to Tx next year and I want to get my tx license but I want to be a dual licensing massage therapist. I do not want to give up my nys license. What is the best way to do this?

  4. Victoria Sileo says:

    I am am a LMT 12 years in SC with a BS degree and A practical nursing degree. I am also a license esthetician for two years. I will be relocating to Indiana PA in 6 months and would like to continue working in the massage and esthetic fields. What are the steps to do do?

  5. Temeka Gilmore says:

    I visit Georgia frequently and I am a licensed massage therapist in KY. Do I have to be a resident to obtain a license in GA via reciprocity? If I have an extended visit, I would like to be able to practice in GA.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Temeka, have you discussed this with the GA state board? If so please let us know the feedback. Normally you have to submit proof of residency for a license, but you can be licensed in both states!

      • Temeka Gilmore says:

        Will do! Thank you! I know that in Indiana, you don’t have to be a resident. But, GA may be different.

  6. Maria Platania says:

    Dear Sir or Madame:
    I am writing this email to request some information on how I can convert Italian Massage Therapy titles into USA Massage Therapy titles. After that, in accordance to the State requirements I would like to apply for a Massage Therapy license. In addition, I would like to request websites if recommended.
    Thank you for your consideration in these matters.

  7. JD Lamar says:

    I am on the board of a non profit which sole reason to exist is to help facilitate a yearly week to 10 day silent meditation retreat in Virginia. People from around the country participate. We sit long hours and get sore and achey.It has been a long standing practice to allow any one who would like to provide body work to do so. For the people who are willing to provide massage and are licensed in their state, but not Virginia, do they need to be licensed, or is there some way that they can provide services without doing so. The retreat is on private property. The practitioner sets their own fees, and frequently does so for donations only.
    Thank you

    • Neal Lyons says:

      technically you need a valid license to practice in an area where massage therapy is regulated, especially if you are in business or advertise publicly, or have business cards that are “public facing” in nature. that said, many practitioners exist that do not have licenses who practice in various ways in various places.

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