Kim Malsam-Rysdon, Secretary of Health

South Dakota Board of Massage Therapy

Frequently Asked Questions


The Board of Massage Therapy has compiled the following list of Frequently Asked Questions to assist you with your questions about licensed massage therapy in South Dakota.  The online applications for licensure, renewal, reciprocity and inactive status each provide additional information on the requirements specific to each type of license to assist you in completing your application.

If you have additional questions or if the information provided does not fully answer your questions, please contact the Board at


Q.  What is the definition of “massage therapy?”


A.  Massage is defined by state statute (SDCL 36-35-1) as “the systematic mobilization of the soft tissues of the body through the application of hands or devices for the purpose of therapy, relaxation, or education through means which include:

         (a)          Pressure, friction, stroking, rocking, kneading, percussion, compression, or stretching;

         (b)          External application of water, heat, cold, lubricants, or other topical agents; or

         (c)          The use of devices that mimic or enhance actions done by hand [.]

If you are performing massage for compensation, you are required to be licensed by the Board of Massage Therapy. (Licensing Application)

The licensure requirement does not apply to any person performing massage for compensation if the massage is done under one of the following circumstances: (SDCL 36-35-25)

        (1) As part of a licensed practice as a physician, physician assistant, chiropractor, nurse, physical therapist, athletic trainer, or other health care profession licensed or certified under Title 36;

        (2) As part of a licensed practice pursuant to chapter 36-14 or 36-15, if the licensee is performing within the scope of the licensed practice and the licensee does not hold himself or herself out to be a massage therapist or to be engaged in the practice of massage therapy;

        (3) In furtherance of duties as an employee of the United States;

        (4) As part of a course of study with a facility or instructor recognized and approved by the board to provide training in massage or the provision of such instruction;

        (5) As part of providing a course of instruction or continuing education in the practice of massage therapy on a temporary basis not in excess of ten days; or

        (6) Manipulation of the soft tissues of the human body is restricted to the hands, feet, or ears and the person does not hold himself or herself out to be a massage therapist or to be engaged in the practice of massage therapy.

Reflexology, acupuncture and aesthetics are not subject to regulation and licensure by the Board of Massage Therapy.


Q.  Who can practice massage therapy in South Dakota?

  A.  Anyone who is 18 years of age or older, with a high school diploma or its equivalent who has completed at least 500 of specified education and training in massage therapy from a recognized facility and passed an examination by an approved national certification board can apply to be a licensed massage therapist.  In addition to meeting the educational requirements, the person must also provide proof of at least $250,000 in malpractice insurance with an absence of professional misconduct. (SDCL 36-35-12)

Q.  How long does it take to get a license in South Dakota?


A.  Once a completed application is submitted to the Board of Massage Therapy, the Board has up to 6 months to approve the application. (ARSD 20:76:01:03) An application is considered completed when all of the necessary documentation is provided to the Board.

If all of the requirements of licensure are met and all of the required documentation is provided, this time period can be substantially reduced and your license can be issued without action by the full Board.  However, if your application requires full Board review because of unique circumstances, it may take longer for your application to be acted on.

Q.  What are the educational requirements for licensure?


A.  An applicant for licensure is required to show verification of education from a recognized training facility that includes at least:  (ARSD 20:76:01:06

  • One hundred twenty-five hours of training in the body’s systems and anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology;

  • Two hundred hours of training in massage and bodywork assessment, theory, and application;

  • Forty hours of training in pathology;

  • Ten hours total of training in business and ethics, with a minimum of six hours in ethics, and

  • One-hundred twenty-five hours of additional training in the area or related field that theoretically completes a massage program of study.

An applicant must submit a Verification of Education Form as part of the initial application.  This form should be completed by an official at the school where the education was received.  Transcripts from the school should also be submitted with your application.

Q.  What is the fee for licensure?

  A.  There is a non-refundable fee of $75 to process your initial application for licensure.  Your annual licensure fee is $45.   When you submit your application, you may submit both the non-refundable fee of $75 to process the application and the $45 annual licensure fee.  If your application is denied, the $45 licensure fee will be returned.  If your application is approved, your $45 licensure fee allows the Board to send your license to you upon approval.

Q.  I submitted my annual licensure fee with my license application and the Board cashed my check.  Am I licensed to practice massage therapy?

  A.  No.  You are not licensed to practice massage therapy until you are officially notified by the Board and provided with a license.  If your application is denied, the $45 annual licensure fee will be returned to you.  The Board allows you to submit the annual licensure fee with an application for licensure to reduce the time it takes to get you your license if you are approved.  Accepting this fee does not constitute licensure absent official notification from the Board.

Q.  What schools are recognized facilities for providing the education necessary to be licensed to practice massage therapy in South Dakota?


A. The Board of Massage Therapy recognizes the following South Dakota facilities that may provide the required training for licensure:  (ARSD 20:76:08:01)

            (1)  Black Hills Health & Education Center;

            (2)  Headlines Academy;

            (3)  National American University;

            (4)  Pam's Massage School;

            (5)  SD School of Massage Therapy;

            (6)  Sioux Falls Therapeutic Massage & Education Center; and

            (7)  Springs Bath House School of Massage

The Board also recognizes the required training for licensure from a facility, if: (ARSD 20:76:08:02)

(1)  The facility is licensed or approved by the state board of massage therapy where that training facility is located; or

(2)  The facility is accredited by one of the following:








Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA);

Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS);

National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS);

Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET);

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSCT);

Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC); or

Higher Learning Commission (HLC).

(3) The Board may approve education from schools that have other accreditations.   

Q.  I received my training at a facility that met the requirements of a recognized facility but has since closed.  How do I verify my education so I can become licensed?

  A.  The Board will recognize other proof of education from an institution that has closed.  If you have copies of your transcript, curriculum information, or other evidence of attendance, the Board will consider that in assessing your application for licensure.

Q.  I am licensed in another state.  Can I transfer my license to South Dakota?

  A.  You cannot transfer your license to South Dakota, but you may be eligible for licensure by reciprocity.  If you are licensed in a state that has the same or higher standards of licensure for massage therapy, you are eligible for licensure by reciprocity and can complete the Licensure by Reciprocit Form.  Remember you must have a valid South Dakota license before you begin to practice in South Dakota, even if you have a valid license in another state.

Q.  When do I have to renew my South Dakota license?

  A.  Beginning July 1, 2013, all licenses were reset to a universal renewal/expiration date.  Your current license is valid through September 30, 2014.  You will need to renew your license before September 30, 2014 and then by every September 30th thereafter.

Q.  Can I frame or laminate my license?

  A.  Yes.  Your license must be displayed when you are conducting business.  If you would like to frame or laminate your license for display you may do so.

Q.  What are the continuing education requirements for licensed massage therapists?


A.  Licensed massage therapists must complete at least 8 hours of continuing education every two years.  (SDCL 36-35-19) Accepted continuing education is any course with a clear purpose and objective which maintains, improves, or expands the skills and knowledge relevant to massage therapy of the human body. Qualifying activities must meet the definition of massage therapy pursuant or be education presented by an approved provider of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or American Medical Massage Association, or both. (ARSD 20:76:03:04)

Any or all of the required 8 hours of continuing education may be obtained electronically (online or by other electronic means).

Beginning with your license renewal in 2014, you will need to show proof of the 8 hours of required continuing education in even-numbered years.

Q.  When do I submit my continuing education hours?


A. You are required to submit proof of your continuing education every two years.

Beginning with your license renewal in 2014, you will need to show proof of the 8 hours of required continuing education in even-numbered years.

You are responsible for maintaining proof of your continuing education to submit to the Board. (ARSD 20:76:03:05)

Q. What is an Inactive License and why would one choose it?


A.  You may choose to let your license become inactive if you are no longer planning to practice massage therapy for a period of time. (ARSD 20:76:06:01)

You can reactive your inactive license to full license status at any time by showing proof of continuing education for the preceding two year period, proof of liability insurance and completing the Reactivate Inactive License Application.

Inactive status is most beneficial to licensees who received their license through the original grandfather provisions of the massage therapy licensing laws.   Those massage therapists grandfathered into licensure did not have to provide proof of education at the time of initial licensure.  If a grandfathered licensee were to allow that license to lapse, the licensee would be subject to licensure under the current education standards.  By electing to allow the license to go inactive, the grandfathered licensee maintains the original licensure which can be reinstated as a full license at a later date without having to meet the current education standards.

Q. How do I move my license from active to inactive status?


A. In order to move your license to inactive status, you need to complete the Application for Iactive License and send your current license and $25 to the Board.

Q.  Who can file a complaint with the Board?


A.  Anyone can file a complaint with the Board. Complaints can be filed against a licensed massage therapist or against someone practicing massage therapy without a license.

To file a complaint, please complete the Complaint Form, or contact the Board at

Q.  Where can I see the disciplinary actions taken by the Board?

  A.  A list of the formal disciplinary actions taken by the Board is listed on our website.  Some complaints are resolved informally or without public sanctions.  The number of those actions is noted on the website, but the resolution of those actions is not made public.

Q.  Who are the members of the Board and how are they selected?


A.  The Board of Massage Therapy is made up of five individuals, all of whom are appointed to serve by the Governor.  The Board members may serve up to 3 three-year terms.

The current Board members are:

Karen Kappel, LMT, Dell Rapids, President

Linda Zeller, Lay Member, Pierre, Vice President

Christine Ellwein, LMT, Pierre, Secretary

Bridget Myers, LMT

Margaret Johnson, LMT

Q.  How do I contact the Board with other questions?

  The Board can be reached via e-mail at or via telephone at 605-224-1721 to help answer any additional questions.