Massage therapists are professionals who are in the business of helping people feel better by alleviating stress, relieving pain, and/or assisting them in the process of healing from injuries. They do this by manipulating the soft tissue muscles of the body in an effort to improve circulation and promote general healing of the muscles. Often referred to by the familiar term of "masseuse", a massage therapist has a high degree of personal interaction with his/her clients and is usually able to derive a great deal of satisfaction from being afforded the opportunity to help people.
Massage Therapy Schools
The majority of U.S. states require massage therapists to complete a formal education program through a massage therapy school, and pass an exam to obtain a license. You can get trained as a massage therapist though private or public colleges or through massage therapy training centers or schools. You typically need a high school diploma prior to applying to these programs.
Massage therapy education requirements vary by state and program, but most schools have programs that require 500-1,000 hours of study and hands-on experience. Courses may include:
- Business management
Similar to health care careers, massage therapists usually have continuing education requirements to keep their certification and license current.
Massage Therapist Certification
Educational requirements for massage therapists vary widely by state and locality. Hundreds of massage therapy schools and college programs are currently in place throughout the country; however, the licensing requirements of a particular jurisdiction in which a candidate wants to practice should be checked before making a decision on which school or program to pursue. Also, candidates who are interesting in a certain specialty should try to find a school that caters to that specialty.
In general, massage schools tend to be somewhat expensive; however, most offer some kind of financial assistance including federal student loans. Most of them require a high school diploma for admittance and many also require a personal interview. A large number of schools regularly arrange internships with local massage practices so that graduates can start out with a valuable amount of practical on-the-job experience under their belts.
Massage Therapy Licensing
Licensing requirements are also quite variable and depend on the state and also by particular localities within states. Most states regulate the profession in some fashion and those that do not usually contain municipalities which impose their own requirements for a business license. Licensure typically requires some combination of education, experience, and/or the ability to pass an exam. Presently, most states require a minimum of 500 or more hours of massage training.
Many jurisdictions recognize the exam-based national certification program offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), or the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), or both. The exams, which are given at test centers across the country, do not result in licensure, as their are other requirements for that (the requirements vary by state).
A very helpful credential for a massage therapist is membership in a professional massage therapy association. Memberships help therapists network and establish contacts in the industry, which in turn often leads to finding new clients. Many of these associations require that members graduate from a nationally credentialed training program, have a state license, and/or be nationally certified by the FSMTB or NCBTMB.
Resources for Massage Therapists
- Massage therapist licensing requirements by state
- Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
- National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB)
- Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP)
- American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
- Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards
- Massage Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm#tab-4
- Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards, https://www.fsmtb.org/