Can I Massage Without a License in North Carolina?

North Carolina’s demand for more massage therapists is growing rapidly. Coincidentally, one question is becoming increasingly common: can you massage without a license in NC?

Massage therapy is an enjoyable and fulfilling job, the hours are flexible, and the wages are decent. These perks can make it tempting to practice massage without a license, knowingly or unknowingly.

Massage therapy is regulated under the Massage and Bodywork Therapy Practice Act. All practicing massage therapists in the state must be licensed by the North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork Therapy. Here is a comprehensive overview of the penalties for practicing massage therapy without licensing in North Carolina and guidelines for getting licensed.

Penalties for Practicing Massage without a License in North Carolina

The Massage and Bodywork Therapy Act defines massage therapy as a system of activities applied to the human body’s soft tissues for therapeutic, relaxation, or educational purposes. Anyone practicing massage therapy without a license violates section GS 90-634 of the Practice Act, and penalties include disciplinary action by the board or prosecution.

Practicing massage and bodywork therapy without a license is a misdemeanor under NC law, and it will cost you $50 in fines. However, practicing massage with a suspended license is a Class-F felony, and it will get your license permanently revoked and cost you between $2,500 and $3,500 in fines.

The board may also pursue legal action against licensed and unlicensed massage therapists. Legal actions include court injunctions and assessment for civil penalties.

Other Challenges of Practicing Massage without a License in North Carolina

Besides fines and legal action, you will experience other challenges when practicing massage without a license in North Carolina. The biggest challenge is establishing a stable practice. You cannot set up a massage parlor to avoid attracting the authorities’ attention. Getting a steady flow of clients (and a reliable cash flow and income) will also be difficult because many people check their therapists’ qualifications.

Requirements for Applying for a Massage Therapy & Bodywork License in NC

Fortunately, qualifying and applying for a massage and bodywork therapy license in North Carolina is straightforward. However, the requirements are stringent.

You must meet three sets of qualifications to practice massage and bodywork therapy in North Carolina:

Education requirements

You must undergo training and education through schools and education programs approved by the board. Education and training should last at least 500 hours with the following time allocations for various skills and subjects:

  • 200 hours learning about the fundamentals of massage therapy theory and practices, with at least 100 hours dedicated to practical applications. Besides massage techniques such as acupuncture and deep tissue massage, the program must also cover related practices such as hygiene standards and infection control.
  • 100 hours learning anatomy, physiology, and pathology.
  • 20 hours learning practice-related physiological concepts.
  • 15 hours learning practice-related business skills.
  • 15 hours learning professional ethics under NC’s laws.
  • 150 hours learning related coursework, ranging from massage therapy techniques to anatomy.

The board also recognizes certificates from community colleges accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Non-approved education programs should be at least substantially equal to the approved ones.

Examination requirements

If you currently reside in North Carolina, you must take the Massage Board Licensing Examination (MBLEx). This is a multi-choice exam administered online, for which you must pay a $195 fee. You must also pass content and jurisprudence examinations to qualify for licensing.

Out-of-state applicants must take and pass one of the following examinations:

  • National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB).
  • National Certification Examination in Therapeutic Massage (NCETM).
  • Asian Bodywork Therapy Examination.

You must also take and pass the Jurisprudence Learning Exercise (JLE). This examination tests your understanding of the practice’s rules and regulations and is also administered online. You must pass by 100%, and you can take the test as many times as you need to.

Background check requirements

The board also conducts criminal background checks on all applicants through the North Carolina Department of Justice. The application packet recommends going to your local law enforcement agency to have your fingerprints taken. You must also include the fingerprint card and release form with your other application documents.

Applying for a Massage Therapy & Bodywork License in North Carolina

The application process is simple and straightforward. It starts with previewing the application instructions and downloading the application form from the board’s website. You should fill out the form and send it to the board for review. You must also attach the following documents to your application:

  • A copy of your massage therapy certificate, diploma, or degree.
  • A copy of an official transcript in a sealed envelope.
  • A copy of your GED or copies of your high school or college diplomas or transcripts.
  • A copy of your birth certificate or driver’s license.
  • Four completed statements attesting to your moral character (three should come from healthcare practitioners and one from a massage therapy instructor).

Applicants trained or licensed in other states are also required to provide additional documents to prove their qualifications. The board also encourages applicants to include any other relevant documents that may make the review process easier.

The North Carolina Board of Massage and Bodywork therapy reviews and approves applications for licensing. However, it refers problematic applications to the Board License Standards Committee for further review. The review process takes about 60 days, and you can check your application’s status on your application portal.

Getting Licensed Through Endorsement

You can also get licensed by endorsement if you were trained or licensed in another state. License by endorsement A is for applicants trained and licensed in other jurisdictions that have substantially similar training, application, review, and approval requirements. License by endorsement B is for applicants from states that don’t regulate massage therapy as a commercial practice.

Let Us Help With Massage Therapy License Defense

Remington & Dixon, PLLC is home to experienced license defense attorneys ready to help you qualify for a license to practice massage therapy. We can also help you lift the suspension on your license or avoid a revocation. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and how we can help.

Massage License Defense FAQs

What are the penalties for practicing massage without a license in North Carolina?

You will be fined $50 for practicing massage therapy without a license. The board can also pursue legal action, including court injunctions and prosecution.

What can you do without a massage license?

Getting licensed is the best course of action if you want to practice massage therapy but don’t have a license. You can also seek a lawyer’s help if you are in legal trouble for practicing massage therapy without a license.


Are consultations free?

While we offer a free consultation on traffic matters, criminal matters, and most professional license defense cases, we charge a fee for family law consultations to personalize our consultations to your specific needs. To learn about our fee structure, please get in touch.

Where can I get legal advice?

We recommend meeting with an attorney. While there is free legal help available for North Carolina residents from pro bono resources for civil matters, and public defenders for criminal cases, the best way to access tailored advice is to hire a lawyer.

Can I hire you if I’m in another state?

This is done on a case by case basis if you are involved in a family law, criminal, or professional disciplinary matter that involves another jurisdiction.



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