Certification in California

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Receiving a certificate, diploma, or degree from a massage school or massage program does not mean you are certified or have earned a certification. In California, you must apply for certification from California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). If approved, you will be a Certified Massage Therapist.

Before applying for CAMTC certification, you must complete at least 500 hours of training from a CAMTC-approved school. You can download the CAMTC application and instructions at camtc.org. As part of the application process, you must request that MPC send an official transcript to CAMTC. If CAMTC requires additional documentation of your hours, please contact Paul David Tuff.

CAMTC requires that, of the 500 or more hours of training, you must have completed 100 hours as follows:

  • A minimum of 64 hours of Anatomy & Physiology, including but not limited to orientation to the human body; integumentary, skeletal, fascial, muscular, nervous, cardiovascular, and other body systems; and kinesiology.

  • A minimum of 13 hours of Contraindications, including but not limited to endangerment areas, contraindications, and medications and massage.

  • A minimum of 5 hours of Health & Hygiene, including but not limited to understanding disease, therapist hygiene, infection control, and standard precautions.

  • A minimum of 18 hours of Business & Ethics, including but not limited to obtaining and maintaining credentials, adhering to laws and regulations, ethical principles, standards of ethical practice, and compliance

Senate Bill 731 (Massage Therapy Act), signed by Governor Schwarzenegger Saturday, September 27, 2008. SB 731 resulted in the creation of the private non-profit California Massage Therapy Council, the organization empowered by the State to issue certification to massage professionals using, initially, a two-tier system: a Massage Practitioner level for those with 250 hours of training (phased out December 31, 2014) and a Massage Therapist level for those with 500 or more hours of training. The certification is supposed to be voluntary, meaning that you can still practice massage without the state-approved certification if you meet local business-licensing requirements. However, some municipalities are requiring massage professionals who apply for a business license to be certified by CAMTC, so certification is mandatory in some locations. Massage professionals who are not required to have CAMTC certification when applying for a business license must still adhere to what are often onerous municipal codes. Click here to view the bill. Click here to see a list of frequently asked questions about this new certification.

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Under the new law, in order to use the terms "CMP," "CMT," "Certified Massage Practitioner," or "Certified Massage Therapist," you must earn CAMTC certification. Many massage professionals have been using these terms incorrectly for decades, even though there was never any state-recognized certification in California. However, because of SB 731, use of the terms without CAMTC certification is now a violation of section 17200 of the California Business and Professions Code, and violators can be prosecuted under this code. Please click here for more information about this issue.

Senate Bill 731 is the culmination of a movement in California to institute regulation of massage practitioners at the state level (the State already regulates private massage schools). This movement has been controversial. Some massage industry insiders feel that the bill is based on arbitrary standards that lack supporting evidence. Many people engaged in other types of bodywork have been concerned that the legislation will attempt to regulate them even though they do not practice massage. On the other hand, many practitioners of massage have been outraged by the discriminatory and demeaning business licensing requirements of many city and county governments, which may include on-site showers, tests for syphilis and gonorrhea, peep holes for law enforcement officers, and keeping doors unlocked to permit law enforcement officers to enter a workplace unannounced. Many of the municipal codes that regulate massage businesses in California were designed to regulate not the legitimate profession of massage therapy but the sex trade (these codes, which may refer to breasts, genitals, drugs and alcohol, are sometimes referred to as “prostitution codes”). Since SB 731 preempts these local codes, many massage professionals in the state who were subjected to these codes supported the bill.

The provisions of the Massage Therapy Act have been clarified by Senate Bill 294 and Assembly Bill 2194. If you have any questions about the California massage law and how it applies to you, please contact CAMTC Director of Governmental Affairs Beverly May at bmay@camtc.org.

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