NCBTMB Exam Information

Instructor: Shelby Golden
Read this article to learn more about the NCBTMB exam. You'll be able to find information on how to register for the exam, what's on the test and study tips.

What's On the Exam?

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork's board certification exam (BCETMB) focuses on testing your ability to handle real-world situations faced by massage therapists. The questions on the exam are divided between topics on communication, law and ethics, evaluation, planning and documentation, and massage and bodywork techniques and applications. Roughly 80% of the questions are on evaluation, planning, documentation, techniques and applications. Only about 20% of the questions deal with communication, law and ethics. You will have 160 minutes to complete the 160 questions on the exam.

How Do I Sign Up for the NCBTMB Exam?

You can register to take this exam on the NCBTMB website ( You will need to sign up for an account on the website and pick a test location and time. In addition to completing the application, you'll need to provide identification, submit to a background check and upload documentation for the required education, experience and training.

How Much Will It Cost Me?

As of February 2016, the fee for taking the BCETMB exam for the first time is $250. For anyone who has already taken an exam offered by NCBTMB, the fee is $225. The certification is valid for two years, and renewal costs $85.

What Are the Board Certification Requirements?

You'll need to have at least 750 hours of approved education and 250 hours of practical experience outside of a training program. You'll also need to earn CPR certification, and it needs to be current at the time you take the board exam. NCBTMB requires agreements to its code of ethics and opposition to human trafficking. Experience requirements don't need to be met at the time you take the exam, but you will need to submit proof of the required experience within two years in order to be board certified.

Does Board Certification Replace State Licensure?

Almost all states require licensure for massage therapists, though some could have city or county requirements. Licensure is awarded by the state and is separate from board certification through the NCBTMB. However, some states will accept passage of a national exam, such as the BCETMB, as meeting the requirements for state licensure.

Do I Need Board Certification?

While board certification might not be required to work as a massage therapist, some employers require or prefer to hire those who have been board certified. In addition to meeting potential requirements, board certification does demonstrate to employers and clients that you understand and adhere to standards set by the certifying agency.

How Can I Prepare for the NCBTMB Exam?

The first step is to enroll in an approved massage therapy education program. Many community colleges, universities and specialty schools offer programs in massage therapy that award a certificate or degree. You'll want to make sure that the education provided in the program meet the training-hour requirements for board certification.

You can find additional preparation materials from online sources that allow you to learn whenever and wherever it's convenient for you. The following courses can help you prepare for the knowledge and skills areas you'll find on the exam: