Los Angeles, Massage Therapy, and California’s Statewide Certification

Nearly two years after State Bill 731 was signed into law, the process of becoming certified as a massage therapist in the state of California is still somewhat tenuous. But the momentum in the Los Angeles massage therapy world – and really across the state – has definitely shifted to massage therapists operating professionally under the new state certificate instead of through municipal agencies.

Money is the main reason why it has taken so long for the state to implement its certificate, which allows massage therapists to operate legally across the state instead of just in individual municipalities. While the bill was signed in September of 2008, no certificates were issued until a year later, in September 2009. Instead, the state mobilized its resources to create the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC), which is in charge of issuing certificates to the more than 33,000 massage therapists in California who can apply.

While the state was setting up its council, the thousands of massage therapists in Los Angeles were still paying renewal fees for their massage therapy licenses, which, coupled with the original fees associated with applying for a license and police permit, totaled over $300.

With these fees paid for, many therapists in Los Angeles – and the surrounding areas, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, etc. which have their own licensing requirements – waited for their licenses to expire before applying for the California massage certificate, which entails a $150 initial application fee, and then a $125 renewal fee every two years.

With a large number of massage therapists waiting for their paid-for massage licenses to expire before eventually applying for their new California massage certificates, thousands of therapists have been left waiting for their certificates to clear the backlog of applications that currently exist at the overwhelmed CAMTC office.

However, the wait may be worth it as, with California’s statewide certification, massage therapists can now work at cities across the state without having to go through the cumbersome and costly process of registering for a massage therapy license in each municipality where they wish to work.

The statewide certificate is thus a boon for Los Angeles chair massage therapists, who often work at different locations across the L.A. area, crossing city lines without even realizing it. But municipal massage therapy licensing bodies shouldn’t be expected to go away in the immediate future, as the statewide certificate is a voluntary document available for qualified therapists, and not required.