WI State Law FAQs
Is there any current forfeiture in massage statutes?
460.15 Penalty. Any person who violates this chapter or any rule promulgated under this chapter shall forfeit not more than $1,000 for each violation. http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/460/15
Bodywork is a general term; are any practitioners exempt from licensure?
Specific practices are not named in the law. However, there are four exemption categories by description:
1. Persons manipulating only the soft tissue of the hands, feet, and ears; and
2. Persons using touch, words, and directed movement to change a client’s awareness of existing patterns of movement; and
3. Persons using touch to affect the energy systems of the human body; and
4. Persons using touch and education to effect change in the structure of the body while engaged in the practice of structural integration.
Two additional groups are not required to get a license as a massage therapist or bodywork therapist: 1) persons whose scope of practice includes massage therapy or bodywork therapy; 2) persons who are authorized to practice by another state or country and are providing a demonstration with or consultation to another license holder.
What do I do if I want to work as soon as possible after graduation?
Graduates are encouraged to apply for a state license during school or immediately after graduation, even if their national exam requirement has not been completed. A temporary license have yet to be approved by the Board via administrative rules, there is a 60-day grace period for new graduates in effect in the interim, providing the new graduate has completed 500 hours of education, has taken the state and national exams and is supervised by a licensed massage therapist or bodywork therapist and clients are informed that their application for state licensure is pending.
What is the History of the AMTA?
AMTA began in August 1943 with 29 Charter members. AMTA Wisconsin Chapter began May 1, 1955 with 14 charter members. You can learn about the rich history of the association on AMTA National’s website
Where can I find the laws related to Massage Therapy in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin Statues related to Massage Therapy are found at:
Statutes include topics such as:
460.01 Definitions (Include Scope of Practice)
460.02 License required.460.03 Applicability.
460.04 Duties of affiliated credentialing board.
460.05 Licensure of massage therapists and bodywork therapists.
460.07 Display of certificate; expiration and renewal.
460.08 Temporary license.
460.09 Reciprocal license.
460.095 Massage therapy and bodywork therapy school, training program, and instructor requirements.
460.10 Continuing education.
460.11 Practice requirements.
460.12 Duty to make reports.
460.14 Disciplinary proceedings and actions.
460.17 Local regulation.
Wisconsin Administrative Code (Also Law)- Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Affiliated Credentialing Board
Chapter MTBT 1 – Authority, intent, and definitions
Chapter MTBT 2 – Application (Requirements to apply for a massage license in WI, reciprocal licensing & more)
Chapter MTBT 3 – Education
Chapter MTBT 4 – Requirements for renewal
Chapter MTBT 5 – Unprofessional conduct
Chapter MTBT 6 – Temporary licensure
Chapter MTBT 7 – Continuing education
DSPS Administrative Rules related to Administrative Procedures for all licensed individuals:
Chapter SPS 1 Procedures to review denial of an application
Chapter SPS 2 – Procedures for pleadings and hearings
Chapter SPS 3 – Administrative injunctions
Chapter SPS 4 – Department application procedures and application fee policies
Chapter SPS 6 – Summary suspensions
Chapter SPS 7 – Professional assistance procedure
Chapter SPS 8 – Administrative warnings
Chapter SPS 9 – Denial of renewal application because applicant is liable for delinquent taxes
You may also find the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) page for Massage Therapists and Bodywork Therapists helpful:
(Updated 4/23/2023 – SK)
Is a Massage Therapist or Bodywork Therapist license required for an individual to practice?
Yes, with exceptions. Massage law includes practice protection. It does not matter what an individual calls the work, a license is required to provide massage services.
Who is appointed to the Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Credentialing Board?
The board is comprised of six massage and bodywork therapists who have engaged in the practice of massage or bodywork therapy for at least two years. One represents private, occupational schools approved by the Educational Approval Board and one represents massage and bodywork programs offered by the Wisconsin Technical Colleges. A seventh member is a public member. Each member will serve a four-year term.
Is it required to have a License to Practice Massage In Wisconsin?
Yes, Effective December 1, 2010, an active state license is required to practice massage therapy and bodywork therapy in Wisconsin. The passage of AB 588, now designated as Chapter 460 http://legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/Stat0460.pdf.
What title will I use if I practice one of the exempt practices?
A person who is exempt from licensure may use the terms “bodywork,” “bodyworker,” and “bodywork therapy.”
What are the exceptions to the massage law?
Exceptions to Massage Therapy License requirement (Note: these individuals may not use title Massage Therapist):
~ Other Licensed Professionals: Holds another WI license in which massage is included in the scope of practice. This includes other licensed health care practitioners, and also limited scope for Barbers/Cosmetologists/Aestheticians. Reference WI Statute 460.03(1)
~ Educators: A person who is authorized to practice massage therapy or bodywork therapy in another state or country and is providing a consultation to or demonstration with a license holder. Reference 460.03(2)
~ Providers of movement awareness (such as Feldenkrais practitioners), structural integration (such as Rolfing practitioners), energy work (such as Reiki practitioners) – provided “The person is recognized by or meets the established standards of either a professional organization or credentialing association that recognizes a person in a practice after that person demonstrates an adequate level of training and competency and adherence to ethical standards.” Reference 460.03(2m)
~ Providers of Reflexology, limited to hands, feet, or ears. Reference 460.03(3)
~ Students Individuals currently enrolled in an approved massage program, may provide services under the supervision of another licensed practitioner as part of an Internship or Externship. The business may charge for such services as long as the student practitioner does not receive any compensation, and the client is informed of the student status of practitioner. Reference MTBT 1.02(17) and (18)
What is the Scope of Practice for Massage Therapists in Wisconsin?
The Scope of Practice for Massage Therapists language is at http://legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/Stat0460.pdf, specifically in 460.01 Definitions.
Is it legal for massage therapists or bodyworkers to provide body wraps, scrubs or facials?
Body wraps, scrubs, and facials, when done for beautification or improvement of the skin are to be done by those having esthetician or cosmetology licenses. They are not in Massage Therapist or Bodyworker Scope of Practice.
Other than practicing with a license, what types of activity can a complaint be made to the state regarding a Massage Therapist?
While investigating potentially illicit massage establishments, we have heard frustration from law enforcement that the providers claim not to be providing massage and do not need to licensed. This is incorrect, regardless of what other name they call it, as massage falls under Practice Protection rather than Title Protection. The legal definition of massage therapy from statute is the science and healing art that uses manual actions and adjunctive therapies to palpate and manipulate the soft tissue of the human body in order to improve circulation, reduce tension, relieve soft tissue pain, or increase flexibility. “Manual action” includes holding, positioning, rocking, kneading, compressing, decompressing, gliding, or percussing the soft tissue of the human body or applying a passive range of motion to the human body without joint mobilization or manipulation.
Another area of frustration we have heard is that a person may not have “crossed the line into prostitution” and law enforcement is not aware there are many Unprofessional Conduct items that justify a complaint to the DSPS. Full list of “Unprofessional Conduct” is available at: http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/mtbt/5
A few items that if NOT in place are reason for filing a complaint (paraphrased)
~ Holds a current and valid license
~ License is displayed for public view (in case of mobile provider, license available to view upon request) MTBT 5.02(28)
~ Obtains written informed consent prior to providing services MTBT 5.02(9)
~ Maintains client records (intake, consent, chart notes) for 5 years MTBT 5.02(8)
~ Provides clean clothing, linens, and equipment. MTBT 5.02(20)
~ Avoids engaging in sexually explicit conduct, sexual contact, exposure, gratification, or other sexual behavior with or in the presence of a client, a client’s immediate family member, or a person responsible for the client’s welfare. Sexual nature of contact shall be determined from the totality of the circumstances and is presumed when the massage therapist or bodywork therapist has contact with a client’s intimate parts without legitimate professional justification for doing so. MTBT 5.02(15)
~ Advertisements include a statement that the license holder is a “licensed massage therapist and bodywork therapist” or “licensed massage therapist” or “licensed bodywork therapist.” Statute 460.13
Massage therapists may not practice in a “Sexually oriented business”, defined as any entity that offers or provides any of the following for a fee: Sexually explicit conversation, Exposure of any person’s intimate parts except as necessary for legitimate massage therapy and bodywork therapy, Direct and indirect contact with any person’s intimate parts unless necessary for legitimate massage therapy and bodywork therapy, Prostitution, Materials depicting or describing sexually explicit conduct MTBT 1.02(23)
What should I do if I know or suspect someone is practicing without a license?
The first thing to do is get the person’s complete name, check on the Department of Safety and Professional Services look up the name of the person under Look up a License select Massage Therapy and Bodyworker and enter the correct spelling of the person in question. If the name does not appear they are likely not licensed. You may then file a complaint of non-compliance on that individual.
Possible legislative updates in 2018?
The American Massage Therapy Association – Wisconsin Chapter, under direction from its membership, intends to introduce proposed legislation in early 2018. The proposed legislation will include updates to scope of practice, student externship administration, and law enforcement provisions. It may also include introduction of statewide Massage Establishment Registration, exempting establishment owners who currently hold valid Massage Therapy/Bodywork Therapy licenses.
The intention of expanding law enforcement ability to cite and District Attorneys to prosecute unlicensed individuals and possible establishment regulation is for greater protection of consumers from harm by untrained persons, and to protect individuals from practicing in potentially unsafe situations and locations. We also recognize that these possible establishment regulations may further assist law enforcement in the fight against Human Trafficking while protecting the victims of such crimes.
Where can I verify the license status?
For online verification, visit Wisconsin’s Department of Safety and Professional Services at https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch
Select “Health/Business Individual Credential/License Search” and enter information requested. If using Profession as part search criteria, select “Massage Therapist or Bodywork Therapist (146)”
Additionally, all Massage Therapists are required to display his or her license in his or her place of business or practice so that it can easily be seen and read by the public. In the case of a mobile practice, a licensee is required to be able to present his or her license for public display. Please note, licenses renew March 1 of odd number years. You may wish to verify license status online for revocation, etc. even when hard copy license has been presented.
What Continuing Education is required for Wisconsin license renewal?
Continuing Education requirement will go into effect March 1, 2015, with the first reporting cycle being 2017. You will not be required to report CE hours for the March 1, 2015 renewal.
24 hours of Continuing Education is required per 2 year renewal period. That is the same requirement currently met by AMTA Professional Members and NCBTMB no additional hours will be added.
Acceptable continuing education shall address topics within the scope of practice of massage therapy and bodywork therapy or related business practices. The topic of at least 2 of the total continuing education hours in each biennium shall be ethics.
Not all CEs will count. They must have appropriate sponsorship or approval. ALL AMTA & AMTA-WI sponsored CEs do count. Follow the link to the law to see the list of other approved CE sponsors.
Newly licensed individuals will not have to submit their CEs until the second renewal, four years following initial licensure.
You can read the full text of the Massage CE Requirements law at http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/mtbt/7
Updated 01/18/2015 – LK
When I join the AMTA do I automatically become a member of the Wisconsin Chapter?
Yes, if you reside in the State of Wisconsin you automatically become a Wisconsin Chapter member.
Is there statewide registration for Massage Establishments?
If your department is investigating a massage establishment, there is currently no statewide registration or oversight for such business owners unless s/he is a licensed practitioner themself. Complaints against individual practitioners may be submitted to the Department of Safety and Professional Services, where disciplinary proceedings and actions may be taken, including suspension or revocation of license, mandated additional education, and penalty of no more than $1,000 for each violation of current regulation.
Many municipalities have Massage Establishment licensing. It is often questioned if sections of those regulations are valid, in that they may be regulating the practice of massage rather than applying to the establishment itself. WI Statute 460.17 states: Local regulation. A city, village, town, or county may not enact an ordinance that regulates the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy by a person who is licensed by the affiliated credentialing board under this chapter. No provision of any ordinance enacted by a city, village, town, or county that is in effect before February 1, 1999, and that relates to the practice of massage therapy or bodywork therapy, may be enforced against a person who is licensed by the affiliated credentialing board under this chapter.
How do I file a complaint against a Massage Therapist or Bodywork Therapist?
The state regulatory board is responsible for processing complaints against Massage Therapists and Bodywork Therapists, as well as unlicensed practitioners but they must be made in writing on the official form for that purpose. Here is the link for those forms:
(updated 4/23/2023 – SK)
Where can I find Massage Therapy job listings?
AMTA’s Job Bank has great resources – search job listings, sign up for alerts by email when new jobs are posted, post your resume & much more.
You can also find job listings for massage therapists at the Job Center of Wisconsin. (*tip – use advanced search and select all options for job boards to search for greatest number of results)
(Created 01/15/2015 – lk)
What is the “Affiliated Credentialing Board”?
The law created the Massage Therapy and Bodywork Therapy Affiliated Credentialing Board. A credentialing board has similar responsibilities to an examining board. Members are appointed by the governor and subject to senate confirmation; they will have authority to issue administrative rules interpreting the licensing law, and they will have authority to investigate complaints and discipline licensees.
How do I apply to be a member of the state credentialing board?
Members of Wisconsin state boards and commissions are vital participants in developing policy, regulation, advisory and advocacy efforts for a wide variety of issues affecting all Wisconsinites. AMTA encourages members looking for a meaningful volunteer experience within the massage therapy profession to apply. This is not a paid position. Information, including information on applying to be on the board can all be found at this website: https://dsps.wi.gov/Pages/BoardsCouncils/MEB/MassageTherapyBodywork/Default.aspx
Current board terms expire in July of 2023. If you have questions about applying email: firstname.lastname@example.org or fax (608) 267-7888.
You can also mail questions/concerns regarding board appointment to Governor’s Office, Appointments Department, PO Box 7863, Madison, WI 53707-7863, (608)266-7493.
-updated 1/2021 LN
What are the rules on Gift Cards and Certificates?
Under Federal Reserve rules, the expiration dates on gift cards and printed or electronic gift certificates must be at least five years from the date of purchase. But issuers can start charging monthly fees on gift cards that are not used within a year
The so-called “dormancy” or “inactivity” fee may be charged once per month with no limit. The fee must be clearly disclosed, so check the fine print. Cards or certificates issued as a reward or part of a promotion can expire in one year. Also, gift card issuers are not required to replace lost or stolen gift cards.
The federal rules apply in Wisconsin which does not regulate the sale of gift cards and certificates. Some states, such as Massachusetts, extend gift card expiration dates beyond the federal requirement.
Moral of the story: Use your gift card within a year to ensure you get full value.
Source: Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, 2/22/15
I would like to report a business that is hiring non-licensed people to practice massage. What should I do?
This is a problem that is not currently covered under our law. The best way to deal with this type of situation is to get the names of the people practicing if you can get their full name you can report them to the department by filing a claim with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services click on Compliance and Inspections. If you are unable to obtain their full name it is best to call your local city officials and make an inquiry regarding the business, explain to the city that Massage Therapists need to have a state license and you believe this business has unlicensed people practicing there. Each community will handle such request differently, perseverance is your best option.
Where can I read the full text of state level massage laws?
Complete Laws and regulations specific to Massage Therapy are available online:
Administrative code http://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/code/admin_code/mtbt
You may also find the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) page for Massage Therapists and Bodywork Therapists helpful:
What is a course from an “approved provider” for CRP/AED?
It can be any course from the APPROVED provider list below that certifies you in CPR and the use of an Automated External Defibrillator. Note that many of these providers offer blended learning, meaning that you can do part of the course online and then have your hands-on skills tested by a certified instructor.
An important detail about the CPR requirement: you do not need a course that is specifically for healthcare professionals, just one that gives you certification in the use of an AED.
Here is the official language from the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services, also available at: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/ems/License_certification/CPR.htm
The following are the department-approved providers:
American Heart Association
American Red Cross
American Safety and Health Institute (includes Medic First Aid)
Emergency Care and Safety Institute – (AAOS)
Emergency University – (CPR Pro Course)
EMS Safety Services
National Safety Council
T-E-A-M CPR & AED
-Currently during COVID-19 the credentialing board is accepting online CPR classes.
Any course offered by the above providers that includes the following is approved by this department to fulfill the cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and automated external defibrillator (AED) training objectives for persons who are required, as a condition of licensure, certification, or registration to be proficient in CPR or in the use of an AED.
Instruction of CPR
Instruction in the use of an AED
Verified course completion through a certification/completion card
Certification not to exceed two years
Updated 1/11/21 – LN
How can I stay informed or assist in possible massage legislation updates?
We would greatly appreciate your involvement!
To join the government relations committee If you have suggestions for possible wording of legislation, comments, or concerns, please contact our chapter at email@example.com.
Once proposed legislation is drafted, we will be seeking legislators to sponsor/co-sponsor the bills and your calls can aid in that effort.
When introduced and assigned to committees, hearings will be held, often with very short notice. Law enforcement representatives testifying how the proposed law benefits their efforts to protect state citizens, or registering in favor of the bills at the hearings is invaluable. If unable to attend hearings, calls and emails to those committee members urging support aids in passage from committee to being scheduled for full floor votes.
When scheduled for votes on the full floors of the State Senate and House of Representatives, calls and emails by all residents: law enforcement, massage therapists, massage customers, and their family and friends, to encourage their legislators to vote in favor of the bills makes an immeasurable difference in the likelihood of passage.
To stay informed of the process, and receive notifications of hearings and votes, along with links to legislator contact information, please sign up for our Legislative Alert Email List
-Updated 1/11/21 LN
What are the qualifications for licensure?
1. Complete an approved, minimum 600-hour massage therapy or bodywork therapy program.
2. Pass a nationally administered, entry-level competency exam accepted by the board.
3. Pass a state exam on massage and bodywork laws and regulations.
4. Demonstrate proof of professional liability insurance (which is included in your AMTA membership).
5. Pay the fee.
6. Complete the application form 2960 at this link: http://dsps.wi.gov/Documents/Credentialing%20Forms/Health%20Application%20Forms/fm2960.pdf