Licensing for State Practice

Information regarding licensing is subject to change in general. If you find anything on this page is incorrect, please email me with details.

Before discussing licensing, often there is confusion between "certification" and "licensing" in regards of what the terms actually mean towards legal, professional career practice, as well as what it means to learn Thai from different sources.

Hopefully the following discussion may clear up a few questions!

You can jump to any part of the discussion here:

  • What does the Thai Massage Institute of Maui provide?

  • Massage Certification vs Licensing

  • Do I need to learn Thai with a Department of Education approved school?

  • What's the Advantage of learning with a DOE school?

  • Hawaii State Licensing Requirements

  • Mainland Requirements (States Outside Hawaii)

    If you have further questions, feel free to contact the Institute!

  • What does the Thai Massage Institute provide?

    The Thai Massage Institute of Maui provides independent traditional Thai 'Yoga' massage certifications and National Certification Board (NCBTMB) approved continuing education courses, for massage therapists and the general public.

    It does not provide licensing, nor does it currently provide an education path towards getting a state license for practice.

    For licensing in Hawaii, you must attend a state Department of Education (DOE) approved school with a program of 570 hours or more, and take a state licensing exam. Most states have similar requirements, read below for more information.

    View the page for this provider's Requirements for Certification.

    For licensing outside Hawaii, jump to Mainland Licensing Requirements

    Massage Certification vs Licensing

    Most states require a license to practice massage for profit. (Some don't.)

    Certifications in bodywork are generally irrelevant for legal practice in a state.

    The only certification that generally matters to state practice is the exam by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), which can be taken once you have amassed enough core education required by your state (usually 500-1000 hours). However, not all states require this exam. Hawaii, for example, has its own state exam including questions regarding state laws, and does not use the national one.

    Certifications outside your core education and national exam are generally not required (or even recognized) by the state, but they indicate to potential clients and the public at large that an institution of learning has recognized your efforts, has given you their stamp of approval, and are willing to endorse a specific set of your skills and knowledge as ready for safe, public consumption.

    Certifications for massage and bodywork are commonly offered for courses of study of 100 hours or less, but by themselves have little to no impact on your legal ability to practice within the state or another area.

    In other words...

    A certification is something you choose to get, because you're interested in learning how to do something well, and would like recognition from a respectable source, or a personal sense of satisfaction and accomplishment!

    A license may be required, however, to make a career of it. (Such as Hawaii.)

    View the page for this provider's Requirements for Certification.

    For states or regions with massage regulations, a license is a government office-issued document that says 1) you have passed 500 hours or more (by state) of massage education including anatomy, physiology, pathology, contraindications, clinical application and ethics, that 2) you have satisfactorily passed testing, and that 3) you may now legally offer and charge for public services.

    NOTE: Not all locales require licensing for practice, even if it is available!

    Jump to Mainland (Out of State) Licensing Requirements

    Do I need to learn Thai with a DOE School?

    It is frequently asked if students need to receive their Thai training from a school approved by the state Department of Education (in order to practice legally later), or if such training is inherently better than going to an independent provider.

    In short... no, for both.

    First, you do not need to learn Thai Massage directly with a Department of Education (DOE) school (to eventually practice it later with a license.)

    Second, most Thai programs in larger DOE schools are out-sourced from independents. Often it is the same information, being resold.

    While 570 hours are required for a license to legally practice massage of any kind in Hawaii, it is not necessary to get Thai massage training with a DOE school as part of those hours. Your Thai massage training may be completely separate.

    You may decide to explore Thai massage before doing a full massage therapist training, or to do it afterward as continuing education. In either case, once you have become properly licensed, you may offer it to the public. This is usually true for any state with massage regulations, but be sure to do research!

    If your state has no licensing requirement, then you may legally offer Thai massage when you are ready. (Again, check with local authorities before setting up shop, as some locales have regulations at the city or county level.)

    What's the Advantage of Learning with a DOE School?

    More hours on your massage school diploma, for states that require them.

    If you will be seeking licensure in a state that requires more hours, it may be worth considering a Thai option offered through your school to get those hours.

    View state hours requirements here with ABMP's State Requirements Page and their State Regulation Guide (PDF). (Backup of PDF here. It may be out of date. Last downloaded in March 2022.)

    Hawaii requires 570 hours (which truly is the oddball hours requirement in the US), so naturally most massage programs here start at a low of 600 to 650 hours.

    Out-of-state students may need from 500 to upwards of 750 and 1000 hours of education, depending on the state, and so it is common for Hawaii schools to offer extra programs to help fulfill these higher requirements for hours.

    Take note, however, that if you need those extra hours you can always get them with other add-ons from your massage school, and still do your Thai training separately later with a different provider (such as this one.)

    If you already have the hours you need, then there's little extra benefit.

    If you don't need extra hours on your diploma to fulfill your state's requirements, and you have no plans to move to a state that requires more, then there's not much extra benefit to learning Thai massage directly through a DOE school.

    At that point, you should be more interested in continuing education, as once you have become licensed, most states require a certain number of hours of continuing education to renew a massage therapy license. (Including Hawaii, starting July 2024.) Further, most massage professional insurance companies, such as AMTA and ABMP, also require continuing education to renew coverage (even in Hawaii.)

    Remember, hours on your diploma don't count for continuing education!

    You can get continuing education hours from any NCBTMB approved provider.

    Be sure to get the hours where you need them!

    Hawaii State Licensing Requirements

    Do I need a state license to professionally offer Thai massage in Hawaii?

    Yes, to publicly advertise, provide and charge for massage services in Hawaii, a state-issued licensed is required, regardless of what title you use. No exceptions.

    May I practice Thai massage in Hawaii without getting licensed?

    You are welcome to freely practice as a hobbyist... just not professionally.

    You can practice for the fun and the love of it... with friends, family and the interesting people you meet! Argueably you can accept donations from those who want to offer them, but you cannot legally publicly solicit customers and charge for massage as a public service, in print or online sources.

    Speaking of donations... No, it's NOT legal to sit on the beach with a sign out for massage donations, even if you do have a license! You can certainly plan to meet friends on the beach and do Thai massage with them, but waiting for some willing bodies, by donation or not, is still called "soliciting on the beach" by the police.

    (Just a friendly FYI... it's all fun and games 'til someone gets a citation.)

    What are Hawaii's licensing requirements?

  • 570 hours of education with a Department of Education (DOE) approved school

         (or through an approved Apprenticeship Program with a mentor)

  • applicants must pass Hawaii's state exam

    Please note that the national exam used by most states from the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) is not accepted for licensing in Hawaii, you must take Hawaii's exam!

    For more licensing information, visit the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affair's: Professional & Vocational Licensing Division - Massage Therapy

  • Mainland Requirements (States Outside Hawaii)

    Do I need a state license to professionally offer Thai massage in my state?

    Regulations regarding professional practice vary by state, or even regions within a state, so determining exactly what you'll need to provide Thai massage to the public will take some research to be certain you're within legal requirements.

    It is recommended that you start here: ABMP's State Requirements Page and their State Regulation Guide (PDF). (Backup of PDF here. It may be out of date. Last downloaded in March 2022.)

    37 states require 500-650 Hours of education and a massage therapy license to advertise or provide professional service. Hawaii requires 570 Hours.

    Some states, such as Virginia and Washington DC, require a license to be a "massage therapist"... but may only reserve the word "therapist" for licensed individuals working within medical environments (though often non-medical establishments, such as spas, will wisely still require you to be licensed for liability purposes.) However, as long as you don't use the phrase "massage therapist," you may otherwise independently offer your services to the public by another title, such as a "massage practitioner." Some areas may have you do something different, or extra. At last check, Loudoun County, VA has practitioners register with the sheriff's office separately as an unlicensed (yet legal) "massage technician"... essentially so they can keep tabs on who's doing what.

    A few have more requirements than usual... such as Maryland, which requires 500 hours of massage education, plus 60 college course credits. Nebraska, New York and Puerto Rico require the most education for licensing, at 1000 hours each.

    Alaska, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Vermont, and Wyoming have no state regulations at all, although there may be regulations at the county or city level. (So if you're getting massage in one of those states, be aware! Many unlicensed practitioners are fantastic... but, ask questions for your own good.)

    Finally... don't believe a word you read here without checking it out for yourself. The state you're in will not care what a massage instructor in Hawaii has to say about it. Regulations change, and are regularly misinterpreted and miscommunicated. Fact sheets are sometimes outdated, or just wrong. Watch out for your own best interests!

    Can you help me figure out what I need to do for my state?

    1) Start by opening this document: ABMP's State Regulation Guide (PDF). (Backup of PDF here. It may be out of date. Last downloaded in March 2022.)

    2) Find your state in the leftmost column.

    3) The licensing department's phone number is in the rightmost column.

    4) Give them a call, and they should be happy to help!

    5) If there's no hours requirement, or no phone numbers, there may be no state requirement.

    6) Either way, it's also a good idea to contact your local government offices to ask about county and/or city regulations.