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Becoming a massage therapist in Arizona: Education, licensure and salary

female massage therapist takes notes on new client before massage

Since individual states regulate the practice of massage therapy, determining the requirements for your home state can be a bit confusing. Becoming a massage therapist is usually quite similar between states, however, and Arizona tends to follow the norm. You’ll need to graduate from a massage therapy program and if you attend a program within the state, you won’t even need to take an exam.

Being a massage therapist in Arizona has its benefits. For starters, one professional said there are an abundance of job opportunities.

“The businesses here that hire massage therapists, right now they are really in desperate need of therapists. We don’t have enough therapists in Arizona being put out to fill the positions,” said Rosemary Angle, the massage therapy program director at the Arizona College of Allied Health. 

Continue reading to find out everything you need to know to start your massage therapy career in the Grand Canyon State.

In This Article

Requirements for becoming a massage therapist in Arizona

In Arizona, there are four routes to licensure for massage therapists. The first route or process is a regular, initial licensure application for people who are seeking a license for the first time.

The second route is obtaining a license by reciprocity—sometimes called by “endorsement” in other states—based on having an out-of-state license for at least two of the last five years (in other words, if you do not currently have an active license but did within those parameters). A third route is obtaining a license by universal acceptance where an applicant is seeking a license and has an active license elsewhere and has established residence in Arizona. The final route to licensure is by reciprocity based on NCBTMB certification. In this scenario, applicants may be eligible for a massage therapy license in Arizona based on holding a current certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

In addition, all applicants must satisfy the following:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal resident
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalent education
  • Submit a completed application which includes submitting fingerprints, photo ID and other forms
  • Pay the established fees

There are also several disqualifying factors regarding an applicant’s criminal record which should be taken into consideration.

Education and training requirements

New massage therapists that are not licensed elsewhere must complete a massage therapy program of at least 700 classroom and clinical hours at a school recognized by the Arizona Board of Massage Therapy.

If the applicant graduated from a school outside of Arizona, they also need to pass the national examination offered by either the NCBTMB or the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), also known as the MBLEx.

If English is not the applicant’s native language, they must submit passing scores on either the TOEFL iBT or TOEIC exams as part of their initial application. Applicants must receive the following scores at minimum for each section:


Exam and licensing requirements

If you are applying for a license for the first time and graduated from an approved massage therapy program in the state of Arizona, you don’t actually need to pass any exam to get your license. Submitting a completed application with your transcript of at least 700 hours of instruction should suffice. However, if you graduated from a school outside of Arizona, you must pass either the MBLEx or the NCBTMB’s board certification exam.

If you are applying for a license for the first time and graduated from an approved massage therapy program in the state of Arizona, you don’t actually need to pass any exam to get your license.

Continuing education requirements

Arizona massage therapists must renew their license every two years on their birthday. When you renew, you must provide evidence of completing at least 24 hours of approved continuing education during the last renewal cycle. No more than 12 hours each renewal cycle can be done virtually in a distance learning format.

Transferability for out-of-state applicants

Out-of-state applicants have three options to qualify for a massage license in Arizona:

  • You have been licensed in another state or U.S. territory for at least two of the last five years immediately preceding the application
  • You are currently board certified with the NCBTMB and graduated from a massage program of at least 500 hours
  • You have an active license in another state or U.S. territory for at least one year and have established residency in Arizona

All applicants must still submit a completed application and necessary forms.

Professional conduct and ethical guidelines

The Arizona Board of Massage Therapy compiles the statutes and rules relevant to the practice of massage therapy in the state on their website, including information of massage therapy regulation. Within this section, they define a list of items which are grounds for disciplinary action, distinguish between lawful and unlawful practice and more.

The statutes and rules also clarify that counties and municipalities can enforce additional regulations for massage therapists and their businesses.

Scope of practice

In their statutes and rules, the Board of Massage Therapy defines massage therapy as the following that are undertaken to increase wellness, relaxation, stress reduction, pain relief and postural improvement or provide general or specific therapeutic benefits:

  • “The manual application of compression, stretch, vibration or mobilization of the organs and tissues beneath the dermis, including the components of the musculoskeletal system, peripheral vessels of the circulatory system and fascia, when applied primarily to parts of the body other than the hands, feet and head.”
  • “The manual application of compression, stretch, vibration or mobilization using the forearms, elbows, knees or feet or handheld mechanical or electrical devices.”
  • “Any combination of range of motion, directed, assisted or passive movements of the joints.”
  • “Hydrotherapy, including the therapeutic applications of water, heat, cold, wraps, essential oils, skin brushing, salt glows and similar applications of products to the skin.”

Working as a massage therapist in Arizona

How much do massage therapists make in Arizona?

The annual median wage for massage therapists in Arizona was $49,920 in 2022 according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), just under the median annual wage for the whole nation ($49,860). The metropolitan area with the highest annual mean wage was the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale and Tucson metro areas at $50,800. The BLS does not have data on any other areas in the state, and may not include information about self-employed massage therapists.

If you want to maximize your earning potential, Angle said that a combination of practice and passion go a long way.  

“Practice, practice, practice to become the best. Students that come out really good therapists are practicing constantly and really taking it seriously. The ones that are more passionate about it over the money, they’re the ones that are good therapists and get a lot of clientele.”

In addition, Angle suggests going above and beyond the continuing education requirements put forth by the state.  

“I suggest taking more than that because it helps them keep up with all the different types of modalities. Just like doctors have to take classes on new procedures or new things, it’s the same with massage. Cupping for example is really big right now, doing lymphatic massage for liposuction, that’s really big right now in Arizona.”

Massage Therapists
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Median Hourly Wage$24

Job growth18.3%

Total Employment2,390

Metro area Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ $50,800 $31,190 $93,010
Prescott, AZ $46,400 $31,330 $89,650
Tucson, AZ $45,950 $26,620 $86,890

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2022 median salary; projected job growth through 2032. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Job outlook and finding employment opportunities

The job outlook for massage therapy nationwide is bright—the BLS estimates that employment of massage therapists will grow 18.3% through 2032, which is much faster than the average across all occupations (approximately 5%). According to the BLS, most of the massage therapist jobs are concentrated in the Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale metropolitan area.

“Sedona is a big place for massage therapists and they’re really big on energy work, sacral [massage] herbal [massage], that kind of aspect of it,” Angle said. “There are a variety of things that you can do. There’s medical massage, there’s more sports and injury, or more structural massage where they work with chiropractors, for instance. We have a lot of spa resorts in Arizona, so we teach [students] all the fancy body scrubs, wraps and aromatherapy as well as Swedish massage. There’s a lot of different avenues that you can do here in Arizona, and we teach all that stuff in our program. [Students] can kind of just choose what field they want to go into or they can have their own business and do all of it.”

Population and housing growth could mean even more employment opportunities in the years to come.

In Arizona specifically, there has been a significant surge of people moving to the state from expensive metropolitan areas (especially on the West Coast) in favor of more affordable housing markets. Population and housing growth could mean even more employment opportunities in the years to come.

Setting up a private practice

Setting up a private practice in massage therapy usually comes down to the rules and regulations put forth by the county or municipality you live in, whichever regulates business licenses (sometimes both). The process for starting a business may be different in different counties or cities. Typically, you need to submit an application for a business license once you’ve obtained your massage therapy license. These entities may also be able to help you determine what kind of liability insurance you may need, if any.

“In the state of Arizona, they have to go register their business with whatever city they’re in,” Angle said. 

Staying up to date on industry developments and trends

For any questions about massage therapy licensure, be sure to inquire with the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy.

For professional guidance and keeping in touch with industry developments and trends, massage therapists in Arizona may want to consider joining a local massage therapy organization to get access to localized resources, networking opportunities, events and more.

Two such organizations are the Arizona chapter of the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) or the United States Organization of Licensed Massage Therapists (USOLMT), which is based in Phoenix. The USOLMT is the industry’s newest national organization and offers members a host of exclusive benefits.

Getting started

If you want to start working as a massage therapist in Arizona, the first step is to get trained in an approved massage therapy program of at least 700 hours. If you went to school in Arizona, you can apply for a license after graduation—no examination necessary. If you’re ready to begin your dream career healing others as a massage therapist, start researching massage programs today.

kendall upton

Published: April 7, 2023

Written and reported by:

Kendall Upton
Staff Writer

With professional insights from:

Rosemary Angle, Massage Therapy Program Director
Arizona College of Allied Health