In the United States, Massage Therapists are regulated at the state level. Each state has a board that governs the massage profession. If you are a massage therapist in a state that requires you to be licensed, you are also required to renew or register your massage license on a periodic basis. Your license may be valid anywhere from one year to four years, depending upon the state.
To renew your massage license, you are generally required to fill out a renewal application, pay a renewal fee, and provide documentation of continuing education hours to fulfill the state’s mandate. In some states, you are also required to provide proof of CPR certification and/or sufficient massage liability insurance.
Most states allow you until the date of expiration to apply for renewal. However, if you live in Arkansas or North Carolina your renewal application must be postmarked well in advance of the renewal date.
In Arkansas, you must send it by the first day of the month preceding the month of renewal or pay a late fee. In North Carolina, all licenses renew on December 31. You must have your application for renewal sent before November 1 of the year it renews to avoid a $75 late fee.
Consequences of Practicing with an Expired License
If you continue to practice massage after your license expires, you are violating state law in most cases. Iowa allows you a 30-day grace period. If you renew within those 30 days and pay the $60 late fee, you are not considered in violation.
Maine will also allow you to renew without penalty for practicing without a license if you renew within 90 days of your license’s expiration and pay a $50 late fee. New Mexico allows a 60-day grace period where you can practice after your license expires without legal penalty. Renewing within the grace period adds $200 to your fees.
In all other states, your license is considered expired, inactive, lapsed or delinquent if the state does not receive your renewal application prior to expiration of the license. Practicing massage with an expired, inactive, lapsed or delinquent license is in violation of state law.
Penalties for practicing without a license range from board disciplinary actions (denying renewal and/or ability to reapply) to monetary fines (up to $1,000 or more in some states) and/or arrest and prosecution as a criminal by local authorities.
Some states will allow you to renew a license for a period of time with only a late fee being paid, presuming you did not practice while your license was in an expired state. In addition to the regular renewal fee, late fees range from as little as $20 for a license less than 30 days past due in Utah to as much as $500 in Nevada.
Reinstatement of a Massage Therapy License if Not Renewed on Time
Some states have no provision you to get your license reinstated after it expires. Arkansas, South Dakota, Connecticut and Rhode Island require you to submit a new license application and meet all current new licensee requirements.
In many cases, especially if there have been law changes since you were first licensed, you may have to return to massage school to supplement your education and/or take or retake a licensing examination. You may also have to get a criminal background check. The reapplication process can take up to six months or more, during which you cannot practice massage.
Other states allow you to reinstate your license under certain conditions, within a specified time period. That period ranges from 6 months to 5 years. In order to reinstate a license, you generally are required to submit a reinstatement application, pay the regular renewal rate for the time you have been expired, pay a late fee and pay a reinstatement fee.
The total cost can be several hundred dollars. Some states require you to go before the board and explain the circumstances behind your failure to renew. Others require you sign a sworn affidavit that you have not practiced massage therapy in the state during the time your license was expired.
Some states will allow reinstatement with proof that you were working under a valid massage license in another state during the expired period. You may also be required to prove your competence to provide massage to the state board’s satisfaction, which could include taking a test or providing other evidence.
A Note about Inactive Status
If your license is considered inactive, you are not allowed to practice massage therapy, but you keep your license number and your “grandfathered” status if state laws have changed. You may not have to provide proof of continuing education or CPR certification when considered inactive.
In some states you have to apply for and renew inactive status, and you can keep your license inactive for a certain time period, after which it must be reactivated or allowed to expire. Other states place your license in an inactive state for a period of time if you do not renew the license.
In both cases, to reactivate your license you will generally be required to have taken enough continuing education credits to cover the entire time the license was inactive.
If you want to continue to practice massage therapy in a state with a massage license law, you should be sure to know and follow the state’s rules and regulations on renewing your license. If you fail to renew on time, get the appropriate number of continuing education hours or otherwise fail to complete your renewal application before the expiration, you will have to pay the consequences.
That can range from a relatively small late fee to losing your license, having to return to school, having to re-take a licensing examination, undergo a criminal background check and reapply as a new therapist, costing you significant time and money.