If you have decided to embark on the path of becoming a professional massage therapist, a bright future awaits you! The need for massage therapy is rapidly growing, with increasing acceptance of its effectiveness by the health care profession. It is projected that from now through 2022, employment of massage therapists will increase by 23%.1. Massage therapists manipulate the soft tissue and muscles of the body to relieve pain, improve circulation, heal injuries, diminish stress, and promote relaxation.
Directory of Massage Therapy Schools by state:
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
Directory of Massage Therapy Schools by city:
- San Diego
- Los Angeles
- San Antonio
- Las Vegas
What You Learn in Massage Therapy Schools
As a professional massage therapist, you have a wide variety of employment settings to choose from. Your services will be requested in hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics, universities, fitness centers, spas, and physical therapy practices. Chair massage has become popular in malls, airports, and public events. Sports teams and dance companies may require massage as an integral part of training. The hospitality industry is incorporating massage into the amenities provided by hotels, resorts, and cruise ships. In-office massage is a new trend, with employers such as General Mills, Reebok, and NBC offering massage for employees.2/ Whatever the venue, you’ll have the opportunity to improve the quality of life for people suffering from disease, injury, stress, and anxiety.
So how do you enter the exciting and promising field of professional massage therapy? This article will map your route.
Educational Requirements for Massage Therapist
Before covering educational requirements, it is necessary to do a self-evaluation to determine if you have the physical and emotional qualities needed for success. Try to answer the following questions:
- Do you have good communication skills? You need to be a good communicator to interact well with clients.
- Do you have reliable decision-making skills? You’ll need to assess a client’s medical history and physical limitations to decide whether massage is appropriate. You must also determine what type of massage to administer, based on client need and physical condition.
- Are you sensitive, empathetic, and responsive? These qualities are important to earning the trust and confidence of your client. You’ll want your client to be relaxed and comfortable, to get the most out of their session with you. Without these characteristics, it’s unlikely you’ll have a successful following.
- Do you have physical endurance and stamina? You’ll need to be able to comfortably stay on your feet throughout your work day.
- Is your body strong and flexible? Working as a massage therapist requires the ability to exert pressure in various postures while giving a massage.
If you can answer “yes” to most of the above questions, and are committed to developing attributes you need to acquire, you have a good starting point for pursuing this career.
Schools for Massage Therapist
Private and public post-secondary schools, such as community colleges, offer programs in massage therapy. You’ll want to apply to a school that is accredited. Completion of an accredited program is a requirement for licensure. Accreditation also assures a prospective employer that you have received a quality education and are well-trained. For a school to be accredited, it must pass evaluation by a governing agency. In the case of massage therapy schools, one agency is the Commission On Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). Another is the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC). Massage Therapy Schools voluntarily apply for accreditation, and in turn, receive agency endorsement of their programs.
A few schools grant bachelor’s degrees, but most provide either a certificate or associate’s degree. Some certificate programs take 2 years to complete, but most require less than 1 year. An associate’s degree is earned in 2 years, and a bachelor’s degree in 4 years.
Massage Therapist Application Prerequisites
High School Diploma or General Educational Development Diploma (GED), With Transcripts – This is a common requirement of all massage therapy schools. Alternatively, a school may accept a certain number of credits (e.g., 60) from an accredited college or university, as evidenced by a school transcript.
Additional prerequisites may include:Cumulative Grade Point Average of 2.0 or better Submitting to a Criminal Background Check Completion of a Health Record Completion of an Application Interview with an Admissions Counselor
Massage therapy programs generally include both classroom study and hands-on practice of massage techniques. Course names and descriptions may vary among schools, but the basic curricula of accredited schools are the same. Typically, you will learn:
- Anatomy and Physiology – The study of organs, tissues, and body systems.
- Pathology – The study of diseases, including causes and prognoses.
- Kinesiology – Science of movement.
- Contraindications for Massage Therapy – Conditions where massage therapy may cause client harm.
- Massage Techniques – Types of massage, including: Acupressure, Swedish, Shiatsu, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point, Myofascial Release, Reflexology, Sports, Infant, Pre-Natal, Post-Natal, Elder/Geriatric, Hot Stone, Body Wraps, Body Scrubs, Hydromassage, and Condition-Specific Massage.
- Medical Terminology – General medical terms related to anatomy, physiology, pathology, treatments, and medical specialties. Includes basic Greek and Latin roots, prefixes, and suffixes. Provides methods to analyze word structure.
- Business Practices – Record-keeping, insurance billing, clinic flow, charting, taxes, developing a business plan, marketing, and networking.
- Special Populations – Considerations for treatment of special populations, including the terminally ill, elderly, disabled, infants, and pregnant women.
- Client Interaction – Effective communication, non-verbal communication, and body language.
- Ethics and Professionalism – Legal issues, standards of practice, privacy requirements, professional liability, and the role of professional associations.
- Herbalism – Healing with the use of therapeutic plants.
- Nutrition – The role of nutrition in treating disease conditions.
- Breathing and Stretching Techniques – To promote good posture.
- First Aid
- Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
- Clinical Internship – Supervised practice of massage skills in a therapeutic setting, such as a sports club, hospital, hospice, clinic, or spa.
- State and Local Laws – As they apply to certification and licensing.
Program Costs/Financial Considerations
Schools vary regarding tuition, but the overall range is between $5,000-$9,000. Some programs factor in the cost of a massage table. If the one you’re considering doesn’t, you’ll need to add $500 to the tuition cost. If you apply to an accredited school, you may be eligible for financial aid in the form of a federal loan, grant, or scholarship. Once accepted to a program, a financial aid officer can discuss the options available to you.
Massage Therapist Certification and Licensure
Certification. Certain states require certification as a prerequisite to licensure. Certification verifies the competency of a massage therapist through testing by a certifying agency. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork offers two tests, one for therapeutic massage (NCETM), and another for therapeutic massage and bodywork (NCETMB). Additionally, a candidate must provide proof of completion of 500 hours of instruction from an accredited school.
Licensure. Currently, 45 states mandate licensure to practice as a massage therapist. To apply for licensure, you will need to take one of two nationally recognized tests, the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx), or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB). Individual state licensing boards make the decision regarding which test their state requires. You may also need to pass a Background Check and be certified in CPR. Many states require completion of Continuing Education Credits to maintain licensure. Candidates must also have 500 hours of supervised instruction and be a graduate of an accredited school.
Board Certification. Board Certification is the highest level of credentialing available to a massage therapist. To receive the Board Certification designation, a practitioner must:
Pass a Board Certification Exam. Have additional education totaling 750 hours, obtained through a massage therapy program, continuing education courses, or college or university courses
Complete 250 hours of professional hands-on experience within 6 months of graduation
Salary Trends for Massage Therapist
Massage therapist salaries vary depending on where you work, your level of experience, and the number of hours you work. However, according to massagetherapists.org, experienced massage therapists with successful practices can earn over $60,000.3/ According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ most recent report, the national average salary is $40,400. The average hourly wage is $19.42.4/ The highest paying states are Alaska, Delaware, Vermont, Washington, and New York. The cities paying the highest wages are Boulder, Colorado; Philadelphia, PA; Seattle, Washington; New York City, New York; and Baltimore, Maryland.
Specialty hospitals pay the highest salaries, with an average annual wage of $55,020.
Job Demand for Massage Therapist
It is projected that massage therapists will be in ever-increasing demand through at least 2022. The reasons behind this are:
- an aging population seeking pain relief
- increased in-office massage, as employers provide additional job benefits
- increased growth of massage franchises and chains
- increased doctor referrals
- increases in insurance reimbursement
The highest demand for massage therapists is currently in California, Florida, Texas, Washington, and New York.
The advantages of working as a massage therapist are many: job flexibility, earning potential, growth opportunities, professional recognition, and personal satisfaction. A most rewarding career lies ahead of you. Here’s wishing you all the best!