California Massage Therapy Laws


Does California Local Law Ordinances accept Massage Specialties CEUs courses?*

Yes with those carrying local permits and licenses. In California has the right idea about how to regulate massage therapy. State bureaucracy cannot protect the public or “police” the profession for fraud, bribes and illegal prostitution establishments and local authorities can. We highly recommend obtaining an estheticians, barber, cosmetologist or manicurist license to partner with massage services to avoid burn out. Remember Massage Specialties services the independent massage therapist who seeks to become a specialist in their massage specialty of choice and pursue certification by the specialty organization and not a general certification.

Here is an example of the San Francisco, Department of Health, Environment Health Objectives:

General and Advanced Massage License Requirements

All massage practitioners, except state certified practitioners and licensed healthcare providers, are required to obtain a license from the San Francisco Department of Public Health. To obtain a practitioner license, follow the steps outlined below. For all application fee and service charge amounts, refer to the Fee Schedule of Licenses, Permits, Fines & Services Charges

Step 1. Application Process

Bring the following to the Department of Public Health, Environmental Health Section.

  1. Completed Massage Practitioner Application. Available in an Acrobat (pdf - print, then fill out) or Microsoft Word: (can fill application on a computer, then print it)
  2. Photo ID: driver's license, identification card, passport or INS card. Applicant must be at least 18 years of age.
  3. Original diploma(s) from a California massage school, approved by the Department of Consumer Affairs.

General ≥ 100, Advanced ≥ 200 hours. Proof of hours must be on the diploma or appropriate official school issued transcript. Out of State Applicants must submit an original diploma and official transcripts from a recognized massage school. Foreign graduates of massage must have their diplomas authenticated by the Consulate or Embassy of the Country of Origin, or have their diploma and transcripts evaluated by a foreign credential evaluation service.

  1. Application fee payable to San Francisco Department of Public Health. Non-refundable, check or money order ONLY. Bounced check fees are $50.00.
  2. Request for verification of massage license must be completed if you practiced massage in another state. 

Step 2. Complete Background Check (Livescan)

Submit an official referral form for background check (pdf) to San Francisco Police Department.

  1. Service Charge fee (non-refundable, check or money order ONLY) payable to San Francisco Police Department.
  2. There are no appointments. Expect a waiting time of 1 or more hours at SFPD. Arrive early.
  3. SFPD sends completed background check results to us in approximately 4-6 weeks from the time you submit your request.
  4. Background check expires after three (3) months. 

Step 3. Massage Practitioner Exam/Photo ID/License Fee

Note: Effective February 2007, you will be notified and scheduled to take the massage practitioner exam only when your file is complete, i.e. our office has all necessary documents including diploma, transcripts and background check result.

The Exam Day Process takes approximately 1-2 hours to complete.

You must show up to take the massage exam on the date/time specified on your confirmation letter. If you are unable to make your specified exam date, you must notify us immediately at 415-252-3882.

  1. Bring a photo ID (driver's license, passport, or ID card)
  2. No drop-ins. No waiting list for exam. Arrive early. If you are more than 10 minutes late, you will be required to reschedule for the next available examination.
  3. You are allotted 1 hour to complete the exam.
  4. You will receive the result of your exam on the same day. 

If you pass your exam (minimum score of 70%) you will proceed to:

  1. Take photo ID downstairs, Room 212.
  2. After taking your photo ID, you will pay for your license fee for the current year.  It is prorated from the issue date on your permit to December 31st of the current year.  You will receive a renewal bill between November – January of each year at which time you will be required to pay the full license fee.
  3. Return to 1390 Market Street, Room 210 with proof of payment from the Tax Collector. Your practitioner license and photo ID will be provided to you.

If you fail your exam: You will need to schedule for the next available exam.


  • Licensed or certificated health care practitioner practicing massage as part of his or her health care practice, any barber, cosmetologist, esthetician or manicurist licensed under Division 3, Chapter 10, of the California Business and Professions Code practicing massage within the scope of any relevant state restrictions on the practice of massage by members of those professions.
  • Cosmetologists may massage the scalp, face, neck, arms, hands, feet, bust or upper part of the body.  Estheticians are limited to the face, neck, arms, bust or upper part of the body, and manicurists are restricted to the hands and feet. 
  • *Please read the full scope of your local laws to be well informed.