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Lower body massage as part of a full body Thai massage. image by Deborah Benbrook from Fotolia.com

How to Become a Massage Therapist in Florida

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As of June 2010, the State of Florida has more than 27,000 licensed massage therapists. They work in a field regulated by the state's Division of Medical Quality Assurance, a section of the Department of Health. It can be a lucrative field, with job opportunities in hotels, resorts, and health care centers, and as an in-home provider. All massage therapists in Florida face the same requirements for entering the field, although not everyone will follow the exact same path.

Complete a course of study at an approved massage therapy school. Florida's Board of Massage Therapy regulates which schools may offer training programs that lead to licensure. Some of these schools also provide optional colon irrigation training, which has separate licensing requirements. Applicants can also complete a Board-approved apprenticeship program in lieu of attending a massage therapy school.

Complete a course on preventing medical errors. This two-hour course must be done before applying to the Board for a license.

Pass a national certification exam. Florida recognizes four types of exams for massage therapy licenses. They are the National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), the National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage (NCETM), the National Exam for State Licensure (NESL), or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx). Florida's Board currently uses the NCBTMB exam, administered by computer every day except Sunday.

Submit a completed application and fee to the Florida Board of Massage Therapy. Applicants seeking their first massage license must pay a $205.00 application fee. Along with the fully completed form, the Board requires a current 2" x 2" photo of the applicant, a transcript from the applicant's massage school, proof of completing the medical error prevention course, and proof of passing the certification exam. Some candidates may need to submit additional paperwork, like name change information or documentation of one's military service.

Find work as a massage therapist. Most career colleges that offer massage therapy training also have a job placement department, so it's wise to start there. There are also trade associations, such as the Florida State Massage Therapy Association and the American Massage Therapy Association's Florida chapter, that may be able to help in the job hunt.

Tip

The Board allows experienced therapists from other states to work in Florida by getting a license by endorsement. The therapist must still submit an application and licensure fee, and she must have a current license from another state in good standing. The standards of that out-of-state license need to mirror Florida's standards, and the applicant must have actual working experience in her previous state. The applicant will also need some additional coursework, including an HIV/AIDS course and a medical error prevention course.

Warning

Florida's law enforcement community has several agencies devoted to stopping Medicaid fraud. To that end, in 2009 the Legislature passed new laws banning anyone from getting a massage license or even taking the exam, if he has a Medicaid fraud conviction on his criminal record. The state will also refuse to renew licenses for therapists who've committed crimes against the Medicaid system. A criminal record does not, however, automatically disqualify someone from getting a license. Applicants should turn in their forms well before any applicable deadlines, just in case the Board wants to speak with the applicant in person regarding his criminal record. The Board recommends turning in the application at least 60 days before the Board's next scheduled meeting, giving ample time to prepare for an in-person review if needed.

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