This memorandum outlines current and recent legislation addressing the licensure of massage therapists, current practice, and legal requirements in Kansas.
Kansas Law and Local Government Oversight
Kansas law does not prescribe a massage therapy requirement requirement. Therefore, individuals in Kansas may engage in the practice of massage therapy without fees, state standards, or state oversight. There are statutes that define what “massage therapy” is not. KSA 65-2872 and KSA 65-2913 expressly exclude from the practice of healing arts and from representing oneself as a physical therapist, respectively, persons who massage for the purpose of relaxation, muscle conditioning, or figure improvement, so long as no drugs are used and such persons do not hold themselves out to be physicians or healers.
Some local governments have zoning requirements restricting where a massage therapist may be located. Additionally, local governments could choose to regulate massage therapists by ordinance or resolution. The City of Mission, for example, regulates both massage establishments and massage therapists by ordinance (Chapter 620, excerpted below):
- Permit Required. No person, firm, partnership, association or corporation shall operate a massage establishment, as defined herein, without first having obtained a permit therefor issued by the City Clerk of this city. Such permit shall be valid only from July first (1st) to June thirtieth (30th) of each calendar year (620.020).
- Massage Therapist Permit Required. No person shall perform massage therapy unless he/she has a valid massage therapist’s permit issued by the City pursuant to the provisions of this Chapter. (620.040).
- Education Requirements. To be eligible for a massage therapist license, an applicant shall provide proof of the following at the time of application:
- Educational Requirements. An initial applicant shall provide proof that the applicant:
- Has successfully completed a course of instruction made up of not less than five hundred (500) hours of instruction in the theory, method, or practice of massage from a National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork approved school; or
- Has passed the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork;
- CPR and First Aid. An applicant upon initial application and upon renewal shall provide proof of current certification in first aid and in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by the American Heart Association or the equivalent;
- Continuing Education Requirements. An applicant upon initial application and upon renewal shall provide proof of compliance with continuing education requirements of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or the American Massage Therapy Association in effect at the time of application (620.070).
- Educational Requirements. An initial applicant shall provide proof that the applicant:
Kansas Massage Therapy Programs
There are at least seven massage therapy programs offered in Kansas at community colleges and private companies. The programs range in duration from 12 to 24 months. Most programs claim to prepare students to take a national massage therapy examination. The Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) is a commonly required entry level licensing examination.
Current and Recent Legislation in Kansas
2023 Legislative Session
- Define terms;
- Create a process for application and fee payment and outline qualifications required to receive a massage therapy license, issued by the State Board of Healing Arts;
- Create a process for “grandfathering” currently practicing massage therapists into licensure;
- Create requirements for reciprocal licensure;
- Define actions prohibited by the Act;
- Provide requirements for massage therapists providing services under the Act;
- Establish a Massage Therapy Advisory Committee to assist the Board of Healing Arts (BOHA) with implementation of the Act;
- Set limitations for licensure fees, which would be determined by BOHA;
- Provide for licenses issued under the Act to expire every two years and create a process for renewal;
- Require applicants for licensure to be fingerprinted and submit to a state and national criminal history record check, and to pay a fee for such services, to be remitted to the State Treasurer and deposited into the Healing Arts Fee Fund;
- Create guidelines and processes for denial, suspension, revocation, or limitation of licenses issued under the Act;
- Provide for remittance of penalties and fines to the State Treasurer, to be deposited into the State General Fund;
- Provide for any other fees, charges, or penalties to be remitted to the State Treasurer, with 10 percent credited to the State General Fund and the balance credited to the Healing Arts Fee Fund;
- Prohibit a local unit of government from establishing additional requirements for massage therapists licensed under the Act;
- Establish that practicing massage therapy without a license would be subject to a class B person misdemeanor and would constitute an unconscionable act or practice in violation of the Kansas Consumer Protection Act;
- Allow for BOHA to assess civil fines to individuals for unprofessional conduct, to be deposited in the State General Fund; and
- Require individuals licensed under the Act to maintain professional liability insurance coverage as a condition for rendering service as a massage therapist in Kansas, with minimum coverage of $2 million per claim and $6 million in aggregate.
Both bills would take effect on September 1, 2025.
SB 111 was requested for introduction as a committee bill by Senator Holscher and SB 305 was requested on behalf of the Kansas Massage Therapy Association. Both bills were referred to the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare, where they both remain; neither bill received a hearing during the 2023 Session.
Bills to enact licensure for massage therapists were introduced in 2008 (SB 572), 2012 (HB 2564), 2013 (HB 2187), 2015 (HB 2123 and SB 40), 2018 (SB 358 and HB 2557), 2019 (HB 2184), 2020 (SB 452), 2021 (HB 2400), 2022 (SB 351), and 2023 (SB 111 and SB 305). The bills introduced since 2013 would enact the Massage Therapist Licensure Act and include substantially similar provisions.
Below are descriptions of 2013 HB 2187 and the House Committee study that took place in 2013. Two notable differences between more recent bills and HB 2187 is the required background check of a new applicant in the 2015 and 2018 bills (the new applicant background check was optional in HB 2187) and the regulatory board (the more recent bills assign the regulation of massage therapists to the BOHA).
HB 2187 (2013) and Committee Study
In January 2014, HB 2187 received a hearing in the House Committee on Health and Human Services; however, no further action was taken on the bill and the bill died in committee at the conclusion of the 2014 Session.
HB 2187 would have given oversight of massage therapy licensure to the Board of Nursing (Board). The Board estimated licensing of massage therapy would have increased its expenditures for the first year by $217,883 and would have increased fee fund revenue by $180,000, assuming 2,400 people would have applied for a massage therapy license. There would have been a $30,000 one-time start-up fee for capital outlay expenditures for the first year. The Board also anticipated hiring 3.0 FTEs to handle the increased workload.
Proponents of HB 2187 stated it would not over-regulate the practice of massage therapy but would protect the practitioners and the public. Proponents also stated the bill would benefit public interest by assuring clients that a licensed massage therapist had a clear scope of practice, a required education and training level, and continuing education requirements; a means of filing a complaint or grievance was available; and a state regulatory body was empowered to enforce sanctions against those who violated public trust. Without state licensure, the only recourse for the public would be filing a criminal or civil complaint.
Opponents of the bill stated massage therapy practice is operating well without government involvement. Opponents also voiced concern about the ability to comply with record-keeping standards. While massage therapy schools teach record-keeping as part of a 500-hour program, there are not record-keeping classes available for practicing massage therapists not enrolled in a full training program.
The League of Kansas Municipalities (LKM) opposed the section of the bill that would have preempted the municipal ordinances relating to massage therapists. The LKM suggested a dual regulation system.
A subcommittee of the House Committee on Health and Human Services was formed during the 2013 Legislative Session to gather additional information about massage therapy. The first meeting was on March 14, 2013, and a second meeting was held on May 9, 2013. The Subcommittee did not make any recommendations or propose legislation. The Subcommittee Report can be found at the following link: http://kslegislature.org/li_2014/b2013_14/committees/ ctte_h_hhs_1/documents/testimony/20140129_17.pdf.
All 50 states either require massage therapy licensure or have introduced or drafted legislation requiring licensure of massage therapists. The majority of states have a massage therapy board that regulates massage therapy licenses. The biennial licensing fees range from $60 to $300. Most states require 500 to 600 hours of massage therapy education, although some states require up to 1,000 hours. Most states require applicants to pass a state or national examination, as well as some level of background check.
The table on the following pages compares the licensing requirements proposed in
|Massage Therapy Laws|
|State||State Licensure||Regulatory Oversight Body||License Fees (maximum allowable)||Age Require-ment||Education Requirements||Other Licensing Requirements||Exam Requirements||Continuing Education|
|Kansas (proposed)||SB 305 (2023) – proposed||Board of Healing Arts||Application: $80 Temporary Permit: $25 Renewal: $75 Reinstatement: $80 Certified Copy: $25 Written Verification: $30 Inactive License: $20||18 years of age||High school diploma or equivalent; at least 625 in-classroom hours of supervised instruction||No other record of disqualifying conduct as defined by the Board; citizen or legal permanent resident of the United States (U.S.)||Nationally-recognized competency examination in massage therapy||24 hours biennially|
|Colorado||Colo. Rev. Stat. § 12-235-101 et seq.||Division of Professions and Occupations||Application: $200 Renewal: $79 Late Renewal: $15 Background Check: $39.50||18 years of age||500 hours of course work and clinical work from an approved massage school||Fingerprint-based criminal history record check; hold and maintain professional liability insurance||MBLEx, NCETM, NCETMB, NCBTMB, or an examination approved by the Director||24 hours biennially|
|Missouri||RSMo § 324.240 et seq.||Board of Therapeutic Massage||Application: $125 Renewal: $100 Late Renewal: $50 Reinstatement: $100 Late Continuing Education: $50 Fingerprinting: $43.05||18 years of age||500 clock hours of training in an apprenticeship with a certified mentor or completion of a massage therapy program||Notarized application; fingerprint-based background check||Examination approved by the Board||12 hours biennially|
|Nebraska||Neb. Rev. Stat. § 38-1701 et seq.||Department of Health and Human Services Division of Public Health Licensure Unit||Application: $110 Renewal: $110 Temporary License: $25||19 years of age||1,000 hours of study and training over no less than 9 months; approved schools must require a high school diploma or equivalent||Be “of good character”; lawful presence in the U.S.||NCBTMB, NCETM, MBLEx, and other equivalent examinations as approved by the Board||16 hours biennially – 8 hours hands-on; 3 hours of ethics; 8 hours may be earned online or virtually|
|Oklahoma||Okla. Stat. Tit. 59, § 4200.1 et seq.||Advisory Board on Massage Therapy||Application: $100 Renewal: $100 Reciprocal License: $115 Late Penalty: $10 Duplicate License: $10 Lost Renewal Form: $10||18 years of age||500 hours of formal education in massage therapy||Lawful presence in the U.S.; current professional liability insurance; background check||MBLEx or NCBTMB||10 hours biennially|
|Iowa||Iowa Code § 152C.1 et seq.||Iowa Board of Massage Therapy||License: $120 Biennial renewal: $60 Temporary: $120 Late Fee: $60 Reactivation: $120||||600 hours of supervised academic instruction; approved schools must require a high school diploma or equivalent||||NCBTMB or MBLEx||24 hours biennially|
|NCETMB: National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork MBLEx: Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards NCCAOM: National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine NCBTMB: National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork AMMA NBCE: American Medical Massage Association National Board Certification Exam|
by Leighann Thorne, PHD