Educators: Utilizing MTAC and Board Certification in Today’s Classroom
Educators: Utilizing MTAC and Board Certification in Today’s Classroom

Educators: Utilizing MTAC and Board Certification in Today’s Classroom

By Donna Sarvello , LMT, BCTMB, MBA

Educators: Utilizing MTAC and Board Certification in Today’s Classroom

By Donna Sarvello , LMT, BCTMB, MBA

After my teaching career concluded, I took a position with NCBTMB to provide a voice for us as educators, as well as continue to listen to my teaching peers, key stakeholders, and peer organizations. Such feedback has empowered NCBTMB to produce meaningful resources to further our success as educators as well as the success of our future students. This started with the launch of Board Certification in 2013 and recently continued with the Massage Therapy Assessment for Certification (MTAC) in 2019.

Curious how you might utilize MTAC and Board Certification in today’s classroom? It’s easier than you think. The information below shares my personalized tips for incorporating NCBTMB’s various tools into your classroom to further empower your graduates and, ultimately, your program.

Step 1: Define Credentialing Options: LMT and BCTMB®

Prior to the culmination of each cohort, do you have a dedicated lesson plan or module that defines the profession’s current credentialing options for your students? If not, I urge you consider it. This is a vital first step to educating your students on the definitions and the differences between mandatory licensure, represented by the letters “LMT,” and voluntary Board Certification, represented by the credential “BCTMB.” Without such an introduction, students may not adequately understand the two processes and how tools such as MTAC can benefit them.

Licensed Massage Therapist: LMT

In most states, massage therapists are required to be licensed. This is a non-voluntary process. Each state has its own requirements for licensure, such as an exam (e.g. MBLEx) and education minimums. Licensure must be achieved prior to a massage therapist practicing within each state and may require continuing education as a component of renewal. In the five states that do not regulate the profession statewide, municipalities may have a wide variety of regulatory requirements.

A component of licensure in most states is passing the MBLEx—massage therapy’s entry-level licensure exam. As stated on its website, “the content of the MBLEx reflects the broad spectrum of knowledge and core competencies identified by the profession for safe and effective entry-level practice.”

Board Certified Massage Therapist: BCTMB

Board Certification is a voluntary and advanced credential separate from licensure. To become Board Certified, a massage therapist must meet minimum education requirements or complete a thorough Portfolio Review, in addition to passing the Board Certification Exam and a criminal background check. Like licensure, massage therapists must complete continuing education as a component of renewal.

Board Certification was developed by massage therapy professionals, educators, and key industry stakeholders to further align massage therapy with other integrative healthcare professions and demonstrate advanced knowledge, experience, critical thinking, and assessment skills beyond entry-level. Often, it is a required credential for employment or lead therapist positions in high-end spa and healthcare organizations, such as Mayo Clinic.

By educating students on the differences between the designations LMT and BCTMB, you empower them with a deeper understanding of the role each plays within the profession and how an advanced credential (i.e., BCTMB) may fit into their greater plan for achieving rewarding positions. It also helps students understand why a tool, such as MTAC, would be beneficial.

For ideas and inspiration about incorporating LMT and BCTMB in your current curriculum, visit

Step 2: Utilize MTAC to Provide a Roadmap to Board Certification

As you empower students to enter the profession following graduation, they may not be entirely sure about their future career aspirations or their overall readiness for an advanced credential. NCBTMB’s latest assessment tool—MTAC—provides both you and your students a roadmap on strengths and weaknesses in preparing for that advanced credential, Board Certification, as well as information learned in core curriculum.

About MTAC

The Massage Therapy Assessment for Certification (MTAC) was created to provide candidates a personalized breakdown of strengths and weaknesses in preparation of the Board Certification Exam. MTAC is also inclusive of information learned in core curriculum to provide an assessment of how well a candidate has digested and maintained such information.

MTAC is a 120-question, multiple choice assessment graded in raw score format. Upon completion of MTAC, candidates are provided with an electronic score report defining proficiencies via a raw percentage score per category in the various content areas. This provides a roadmap of areas to improve upon prior to attempting the Board Certification Exam.

Additional information on MTAC is available at

Incorporating MTAC

Due to its ability to serve schools, students, and the profession, many educators are opting to use MTAC as a massage program’s comprehensive final exam. MTAC better identifies and addresses a student’s strengths and weaknesses as well as a program’s strengths and weaknesses—resulting in efforts to produce a stronger curriculum and, ultimately, more proficient graduates.

As MTAC is adopted by more massage therapy programs across the country, the results may also be used to show educators and schools how they compare to state and national averages. Your school may request such results and market successes to prospective students in a variety of ways.

Incorporating Board Certification Education

While it is a voluntary credential, many massage therapy programs across the country include content areas related to Board Certification within core curriculum. To accomplish this, NCBTMB provides several public and free resources, including a Board Certification Content Outline, Board Certification Resources List, Exam Breakdown, and more. All are available for download at

In addition to these free resources, you or your students may also elect to utilize NCBTMB’s Online Practice Exam, a subscription-based service for preparation for state licensure exams and Board Certification. With over 2,000 practice questions, as well as sample exams, it is a worthwhile resource when needing to improve areas of weakness or improve mental readiness in preparation of examination day. More information about this product is available on the NCBTMB website.

Step 3: Recognize MTAC Supports All Students—Even Those Who Don’t Become Certified

Regardless if your graduates choose to pursue Board Certification immediately upon graduation, further along in their career, or not at all, MTAC is still beneficial because of its ability to assess a candidate’s ability to digest and maintain information learned within core curriculum. Based on MTAC results, your soon-to-be licensed or currently licensed massage therapists may utilize such information to pursue and complete continuing education in weaker areas, increase proficiencies and provide clients with the best possible care.

Another important benefit of MTAC for you as an educator and/or a school owner is the possibility to utilize results to identify and offer additional tutoring or continuing education opportunities to further the success of both past and recent graduates. It may also help in identifying continuing education opportunities for your instructors.

Step 4: Educate Yourself & Learn More About MTAC and Board Certification

As a previous educator myself, I recognize and understand the importance of the work we do to prepare our students for success. By utilizing tools NCBTMB has created for the profession, we can further empower students, strengthen our massage therapy programs, and, ultimately, our profession.

To learn more about how to get started with the available tools discussed in this article, visit or contact us at All are welcome to contact us and utilize such tools, whether you are an educator, practicing therapist, or soon-to-be graduate.