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Frequently Asked Questions

Massage Therapy Licensing/Certification Information

What does the new law do?
It mandates the creation of the new California Massage Therapy Council (referred to in SB 731 as the MTO or Massage Therapy Organization), which will issue a new, voluntary, state-recognized massage therapy certification.

What is the difference between this certification and my current license/permit?
Local licenses/permits currently allow massage therapists to practice only in the city or county that issues them.  A CAMTC-issued certificate will permit you to practice anywhere in the state without getting a separate permit for each locale.
Do I have to get this new certification?
No. Certification under the CAMTC is
When does it start/when can I apply? The California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) plans to begin accepting applications in July or August of 2009.   No certificates can be issued until September 1, 2009.  The turnaround time to receive a certificate is unknown at this time.  The details of the process are being created in a series of meetings by the CAMTC board.  
Will I still have to get a city permit? 
If you do
 not get CAMTC certified, then yes, you will still be subject to local ordinances, as you are now. 
If you
 do get CAMTC certified, no, you will not also need a local permit. You will, however, have to follow all other general business requirements that apply to all similar local businesses, i.e., obtaining a business license, following zoning, health and safety ordinances, etc.
Will I still need to get a business license?
If you own your own business, yes. A CAMTC-issued certificate will give you permission to practice anywhere, but it does not replace your business license. If you are simply an employee of another person's business, then you do not need a business license.
What is the difference between a Certification and a License?
A license is created by a kind of law called a "practice act", and only those who hold the license can practice in that field, no matter what they call themselves.  A certification, like this one, is created by a "title act", and it only applies to those who use the specified titles that are protected in the law.  So, under this law, anyone who is practicing legally under local massage laws will be able to continue to practice, but only those who get the certification will be able to use the titles Certified Massage Therapist, Certified Bodywork Therapist, Certified Bodywork Practitioner or Certified Massage Practitioner in California. 
What is the difference between this certification and state certification?Under state certification, an agency or board that is part of the California state government  would issue certificates.  Under this law, a non-governmental non-profit agency, the CAMTC, will issue certificates, and the government of California will recognize those certificates as legitimate.
Can I still call myself a Certified Massage Therapist or Certified Massage Practitioner?
In the State of California, as of September 1, 2009, when the first certificates are issued, only those who hold the state-recognized certifications issued by the CAMTC will be able to legally call themselves Certified Massage Practitioner or Certified Massage Therapist.  Up to now, the term Certified Massage Therapist/Practitioner has actually had no legal meaning state-wide.  It might have meant that someone was issued a certificate by their school, or it might have meant that they were certified by their city or county.  Now the title will be recognized state-wide as referring to someone who has certified through the CAMTC.
What will be fee for this certificate be?
The CAMTC is working toward offering certifications at a fee that would be comparable to the average of fees currently charged at a local level. That being said, the CAMTC will be a non-profit entity and will charge what it costs to issue the certificate. Those costs per certificate are not yet known.
How often will it have to be renewed?

Every two years, likely via the internet or by mail, if there are no extenuating circumstances.
Who sits on the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC)?Two representatives each from any association with at least 1,000 CA. members in each of the last 3 years. Currently only the American Massage Therapy Association, CA Chapter, (AMTA-CA) and the Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) qualify, and each have made 2 appointments. In addition, and, unless any of the following choose to waive their right to it, a representative each from the League of California Cities, the California State Association of Counties, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Community College Chancellor's office and any incorporated association of private postsecondary schools that collectively have graduated at least 1,000 massage students in each of the last 3 years. Currently, there are representatives of the CA Association of Private-postsecondary Schools (CAPPS), the Career College Association (CCA), and the CA Massage School Association (CAMSA). 
Do I have to take the National Certification Exam to get CAMTC certified?The test or tests that will be accepted for certification by the CMTC have not been determined yet.  It is the intention of the creators of SB 731 and the CAMTC to be as inclusive as possible. No exam is required to qualify for the practitioner tier. To qualify for the therapist tier, passing an approved exam is just one option. 
What are the requirements for getting CAMTC certified? Massage Practitioner
  • - 250 hrs of training at one approved school (*see below regarding approved schools)
  • - No new Massage Practitioner certificates issued after 5 years (after 2014)
  • - After that tier is phased out, Practitioner certificate still valid for practice as long as they are kept current (may be additional education requirements at some point to bring it to the MT level)
  • - Renewal every 2 years
  • - Fingerprinting and background check for the initial application only 
Massage Therapist
  • - Education (must have A, B, or C)
  • A. 500 hours of training
  • At least 250 at one approved school
  • Remaining 250 from registered or approved schools or approved CEU providers
  • After 5 years (2014), all 500 hours must be obtained from approved schools
  • B. Or must have passed approved exam
  • C. Or have Registration, Certification, or License from state with greater or equal requirements
  • - Renewal every 2 years
  • - Fingerprinting and background check for the initial application only
  Grandfathering as Massage Practitioner
  • 1. Option 1 (A,B, and C required)
  • A. Valid massage permit or license from CA city or county
  • B. 100 hrs training at registered or approved school
  • C. Practicing at least 3 yrs and 1000 paid massages
  • 2. Option 2 (A and B required)
  • A. 100 hrs training (but no local permit or license)
  • B. Practicing at least 3 yrs and 1750 paid massages
  • 3. Conditional Permit (only offered for 2 yrs, until 2011)
  • A. 100 hrs training, but less experience than above
  • B. Must obtain at least 30 CEUs each year for 5 yrs until they have at least 250 hrs total, then will be grandfathered in as Massage Practitioner

Why are the educational requirements not higher?Passing a law is all about compromise.  When the process of writing the law started, there were over 250 schools teaching massage in CA, the vast majority teaching 100-200 hour programs.  Some organizations and individuals expressed a fear that requiring more than 250 hours of education would some people out of business.  The legislature felt that 250 hours of education was the minimum that would be acceptable for a profession, and they decided to phase out the lower (250-hour) tier in 5 years. 
Why are the educational requirements not lower?Passing a law is all about compromise.  There are some areas in California that have no educational requirements, there are others that have a 1000 hour requirement at the upper limit.  The educational requirements for state licensing in 43 states plus Washington, D.C. are 500 hours.  The requirement is an attempt to bring California in line with the majority of the country, simplifying relocation to a new area, elevating the perception of the profession and raising the bar for the profession of massage therapy. 
Why is fingerprinting required?  Compromise.  Law enforcement was unlikely to support the passage of SB 731 into law without this requirement.  Though submitting to fingerprinting and a background check can seem onerous and humiliating, members of many reputable professions, like schoolteachers, are also required to do this throughout the state.  Fingerprinting will only be required one time and renewals should be able to be processed via the internet or  by mail.  
What schools are "approved"? The agency that approves California schools has been dissolved (because the law that governed the agency expired, or "sunsetted"), thus, there are NO officially approved schools at this time.  It is an issue the CAMTC is looking to resolve within the certification system.  The State is working towards addressing this issue, too.  Please refer to the link on the State Legislation page for more information.

How long will the 250-hr grandfathering be available? 
Grandfathering will be available until 2014.

Does this law change anything for an establishment/business?
The law says that if everyone working in the business is certified, then the business itself is exempt from needing any additional local establishment permit (through it still needs a business license). The business would also be exempt from some of the restrictive zoning and high licenses fees. Some of the details of these provisions will need to be worked out. 
Does this law affect zoning for massage therapy businesses?The answer to this is uncertain and will only truly be determined with time.  The text of the law pre-empts (overrules) unreasonable local regulations that only apply to massage therapists and not to other comparable businesses, like nail salons and chiropractic offices.  This means that you will legally be able to refuse such local requirements as STD testing or extra local background checks.  But zoning laws can be trickier to navigate and change and will likely have to be fought out on a case-by-local-case basis until a common practice is established. 
Why would I want this new certification?-it will be portable.  If you get a new job in a new location, you will not have to apply for new local permits/licenses if you have a CAMTC-issued certificate.                 - You will only have to renew every two years, rather than annually, as in many local jurisdictions.  - You would be part of establishing a single standard that would give our profession more credibility with the public.  Consumers will learn that they can depend on CMTC-certified practitioners having certain qualifications.                                - Some cities may amend their local ordinances to require CAMTC-issued certification, because it will streamline local bureaucracy and law enforcement. 
Will the state-recognized CAMTC-issued certification be recognized in other states?That is yet to be determined, and will be up to each state. 
Can I still use the title HHP?Yes, if you obtained that title through a city or county that recognizes it.  That title is not affected or governed by this new law.  It is a local title, subject to local regulations.


Where/Who do I contact for city licensing information? As California does not have state wide regulations in place at this time, you will need to contact your local city/county Business License office.  They will inform you of all that is necessary for you to practice massage in your area.  If you will be practicing massage in more than one city/county you will need to adhere to all regulations for each city/county.  

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