Prospective massage therapists should complete a certificate or diploma degree program from an accredited school approved by the state. During their studies, future massage therapists may take coursework in medical terminology, body mechanics, massage ethics, anatomy, and physiology.
Each state has a requirement for the number of hours of hands-on experience massage students must have before they can obtain their license. This can be achieved through an internship and/or working at a school’s massage clinic.
After completing the massage therapy education program, a licensing exam is required. In some cases, massage school graduates take a specialized exam created by the state. In other cases, states require completion of the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx). The MBLEx, which is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), is a 100-question test that must be completed in just under two hours. Areas that are covered on the exam include ethics, client assessments, kinesiology, and the physiological effects of massage.
Prospective massage therapists must put in an application and provide proof that they have met the requirements for a license. Those who want to pursue a massage therapy career can find information about each state’s licensing requirements on the American Massage Therapy Association’s website.
A certification—which is earned by completing a certain number of clinical hours and an examination—is not necessarily required to get a massage therapy license, but it can make the process easier in some cases.
For example, states require massage therapists to complete the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM) certification, which contains 100 multiple choice questions related to Oriental medicine foundations, biomedicine, and Chinese herbology.
Other massage therapy certifications can be earned in veterinary massage, palliative care, sports massage, spa management, and clinical rehabilitative message.
Some states require massage therapists to get individual liability insurance, even if their employer has coverage.
In order to keep a massage license current, professionals must complete a certain number of continuing education credits at schools approved by their state. Topics may include business, general massage, ethics, research, or marketing. Some continuing education classes are available online through the American Massage Therapy Association. In addition, the organization provides information on schools where students can take these courses in their local area.
Some massage therapists learn a specific type of massage in order to help them build their practice. There are several massage modalities to choose from, including the following:
Massage therapists who want to open their own business are required to get licensed with their state.
As of May 2017, massage therapists earn a median salary of $39,990 per year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who are among the lowest ten percent of earners receive $20,300, while the top ten percent earn $77,470.
The American Massage Therapy Association estimates that there are currently between 300,000 and 350,000 massage therapists around the country. And this number is only going to increase in the coming years. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that there will be a 26 percent increase in employment between 2016 and 2026, which is significantly faster growth than the average of all other occupations. This demand for massage therapists can be attributed to the fact that more and more health providers are incorporating massage into their treatment plans. Also, many massage clinic franchises have recently opened in the United States, allowing people to get massage at more affordable rates than they would at spas.
There are several factors that influence what school massage students choose. Whether they are concerned about the length of the program, taking courses online versus on campus, or the amount of tuition, students need to compare programs before making a decision. The search tool below can help.
Building a massage business depends on professionals making connections. One way massage therapists can make connections with their peers, as well as possible clients, is by joining professional associations. Below are some of the groups that can help massage therapists succeed throughout their career.
The ABMP provides services to help massage professionals increase their knowledge and skills. Members can take continuing education classes, receive timely industry information from the organization’s Massage and Bodywork magazine, and get discounts on supplies. In addition, the association provides comprehensive liability insurance, as well as property insurance.
This association serves the needs of massage therapists, as well as schools and students. Member benefits include access to continuing education programs, marketing tools, and liability and health insurance.
Founded in 1939 as the Florida State Massage Therapy Association, this organization is now dedicated to helping massage therapists around the country. The group offers educational resources, a site to help promote members’ services, liability insurance, and networking events.
This organization is for nurses who incorporate massage into their patient care.
Provides a leadership training program to help professionals advance in their careers. In addition, the group organizes an annual conference.
This association—which is made up of teachers, schools, administrators, and continuing education providers—promotes excellence in massage education. The organization offers leadership development resources, an annual business meeting, and publications with the latest industry information.
In order to provide the best services to their clients, massage therapists should always continue learning long after they’ve completed their degree programs. The following are examples of resources they can use to accomplish this.
This page includes information on dozens of continuing education courses offered by the American Massage Therapy Association. Class topics include marketing, massage research, professional ethics, and malpractice.
This site has resources massage therapists can use to keep up with the latest research in the field, including a blog and the International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. In addition, readers can get information on different kinds of grants available to massage professionals.
Massage Magazine includes information on state laws, continuing education courses, insurance options, and the resources professionals need in their massage therapy practice.
This page on the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ website contains information about the MBLEx.
Provides information for those who are interested in pursuing an equine massage practice.
Tailored to massage therapists who want to work in oncology.
This site provides information on grief massage and its benefits.
Peer-reviewed publication to educate the massage community.
Published by the American Massage Therapy Association, the Massage Therapy Journal offers advice on running a business, along with online courses and insurance options.