Can people with a criminal record be massage therapists?

Everyone has a past. Many of us have moments in our pasts that we would rather forget or rewrite. A lot of these moments are childish mishaps or minor indiscretions. For some, however, the past holds more serious implications.

For some people, the past holds some great mistakes, a criminal record. Depending on a myriad of favors, a criminal record can limit future opportunities. There are a few charges that can keep someone from living in certain areas or working certain jobs. One of those jobs could be massage therapy.

When hiring a new massage therapist, it’s important to complete all necessary paperwork including a background check (look at this article to learn more about what a background check is and how it works). Not performing a background check on the massage therapists you hire for your business can have a negative impact down the line and jeopardize your reputation. 

Not all crimes are created equal. Some are less concerning than others, but the more serious crimes – felonies – can be a real problem. The good news is there is a process for expunging a felony, which could be an option, but there are a few crimes that do not disqualify a person from the profession of massage therapist. 

What is a massage therapist?

Massage therapists are trained and certified professionals that work on the soft-tissue of the body. In some instances, people enjoy a massage to relax or enjoy for personal time. Others, however, are prescribed massage therapy as a part of more comprehensive treatment. 

Patients suffering from cancer, heart disease, stomach problems, and some autoimmune diseases often use massage therapy to help treat their various conditions. 

A massage therapist uses different levels of pressure and manipulation techniques to release and relax the muscles, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, and skin.  

Outside of the benefits to patients and clients, massage therapists enjoy a high level of freedom. Massage therapy has almost unlimited entrepreneurial potential. It’s one of those occupations that offers so much more than a 9 to 5 job.

Why is a criminal record an issue or concern?

When it’s time to hire a new massage therapist it’s important to find the right massage therapist. Part of the hiring process involves a background check. It may seem strange, but a background check is an important piece of the puzzle.

Massage therapists are in an interesting position. They have a lot of unsupervised time with their clients. And that time isn’t over long distances, it’s direct and physical contact. That means there needs to be a high level of trust between a massage therapist and a client.

And that’s where a background check comes in. A detailed background check can and will reveal any potential concerns. For those with a criminal history, there is good news. Some crimes don’t automatically disqualify a person from becoming a massage therapist.

What crimes do not disqualify you from becoming a massage therapist?

In order to maintain that high level of trust and to protect all potential clients, the certification board that oversees massage therapists has a tiered evaluation system to determine if a person with a criminal history can work professionally.

The first level includes any crimes that automatically disqualify a person from becoming a massage therapist. These crimes do not allow any sort of appeal process, they are immediate dismissals. 

This first level includes any crime involving sexual misconduct, murder or attempted murder, and any felony convictions that involve violence. These crimes present a very high risk to clients, so it’s best to dismiss anything that could result in danger or additional crimes

The second level includes crimes that are appealable. At first blush, these crimes do result in immediate denial of certification with the chance to appeal. These crimes still present the possibility of harm or danger to clients, but each category has an exception. Exception include the following:

  • Crimes involving prostitution
  • Violent crimes committed more than sevens years ago
  • Probation or parole
  • Use or possession of illegal drugs (felony and misdemeanor)
  • DUIs
  • Assault and battery (misdemeanor and without the use of a deadly weapon)
  • Crimes against property (misdemeanor and felony)

These crimes are appealable but that process does not guarantee certification by the board.

The third and final category include crimes that may result in denial of certification but are not grounds for immediate denial. If a potential massage therapist has a criminal history that does not meet the above criteria, the board will consider it based on the following factors:

  • Serious of the crime
  • Was it violent?
  • Are there multiple convictions?
  • Did it involve a minor or a person with diminished capacities?
  • Time since the crime
  • Relation to client care
  • Was the application forthcoming and truthful about their crimes?

While this list and these tiers relate to the certification process, they are related directly to the hiring process. Any crime found in a background check would come up during the certification process. So to be hired and practice as a massage therapist, one has to be certified.

How do you get a felony expunged?

What happens if you do have a felony conviction? And one that falls under that first tier established by the certification board? There is a chance to have a felony expunged, or removed, for your record.

The process to expunge a felony conviction is fairly straightforward. The first step is to find out if the conviction can be removed. If the conviction is lower-level, something not violent, then there is a better chance it will be expunged.

If the crime is determined to be expungeable, then you have to file a petition with the court. The process within the courts depends on the state requirements. It’s also important to note that simply filing a petition doesn’t guarantee a felony will be expunged. 

There is usually a small cost associated with filing a petition to expunge. Once again, the cost will vary depending on the state the petition is being filed. Just be prepared for that cost. 

A criminal past doesn’t always mean no future. There are a number of crimes that can be appealed and don’t cast a long shadow on future opportunities. This is true for massage therapists, too. Certain crimes or circumstances can disqualify someone from this position, but it’s not a hard and fast rule. 

Author bio

Laura Gunn writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site,

She has been happily married for nearly 10 years and is wildly passionate about couples staying connected and engaged.