Five Steps to Becoming a Licensed Massage Therapist

Step 1
Complete a massage therapy program
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.
Step 2
Complete practical requirements
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.
Step 3
Pass the licensing examination
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.
Step 4
Apply for a state license
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.
Step 5
Complete a certification
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.
Other massage therapy certifications can be earned in veterinary massage, palliative care, sports massage, spa management, and clinical rehabilitative message.
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FAQ on Earning Your License in Massage Therapy

Do I need to get insurance to be a massage therapist?

Some states require massage therapists to get individual liability insurance, even if their employer has coverage.

Am I required to complete continuing education classes?

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.

Should I specialize in a specific type of massage?

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:

  • Deep tissue massage
  • Acupressure
  • Stone therapy
  • Reflexology
  • Swedish massage
  • Shiatsu massage
  • Reiki massage
  • Therapeutic touch massage
  • Pregnancy massage
  • Sports massage
Do I need a business license?

Massage therapists who want to open their own business are required to get licensed with their state.

Massage Therapy Salary & Job Growth

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.

Alabama Mean wage annual: $34,350

Currently Employed: 530

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.20%

Alaska Mean wage annual: $86,980

Currently Employed: 640

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18.70%

Arizona Mean wage annual: $46,100

Currently Employed: 2,040

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.70%

Arkansas Mean wage annual: $43,150

Currently Employed: 280

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.10%

California Mean wage annual: $41,500

Currently Employed: 17,390

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 24.10%

Colorado Mean wage annual: $43,420

Currently Employed: 5,160

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 38.30%

Connecticut Mean wage annual: $43,560

Currently Employed: 1,450

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.80%

Delaware Mean wage annual: $44,840

Currently Employed: 70

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.80%

Florida Mean wage annual: $46,790

Currently Employed: 8,930

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.90%

Georgia Mean wage annual: $36,440

Currently Employed: 2,620

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.40%

Hawaii Mean wage annual: $53,860

Currently Employed: 1,380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17.00%

Idaho Mean wage annual: $48,100

Currently Employed 250

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Illinois Mean wage annual: $45,460

Currently Employed: 3,980

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.30%

Indiana Mean wage annual: $52,650

Currently Employed: 1,380

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 22.00%

Iowa Mean wage annual: $39,030

Currently Employed: 820

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23.80%

Kansas Mean wage annual: $28,990

Currently Employed: 620

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 17.90%

Kentucky Mean wage annual: $52,180

Currently Employed: 620

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.50%

Louisiana Mean wage annual: $31,750

Currently Employed: 440

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 11.30%

Maine Mean wage annual: $41,900

Currently Employed: 270

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.80%

Maryland Mean wage annual: $45,790

Currently Employed: 1,660

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 33.70%

Massachusetts Mean wage annual: $46,590

Currently Employed: 2,240

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 18.10%

Michigan Mean wage annual: $41,760

Currently Employed: 2,080

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.60%

Minnesota Mean wage annual: $47,220

Currently Employed: 1,960

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 24.00%

Mississippi Mean wage annual: $27,630

Currently Employed: 250

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 3.30%

Missouri Mean wage annual: $37,950

Currently Employed: 190

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.90%

Montana Mean wage annual: $38,250

Currently Employed: 140

Change in Employment (2016-2026): N/A

Nebraska Mean wage annual: $38,090

Currently Employed: 300

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.30%

Nevada Mean wage annual: $30,530

Currently Employed: 1,670

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.50%

New Hampshire Mean wage annual: $42,380

Currently Employed: 470

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 14.70%

New Jersey Mean wage annual: $44,810

Currently Employed: 3,310

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.90%

New Mexico Mean wage annual: $43,140

Currently Employed: 340

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.80%

New York Mean wage annual: $59,130

Currently Employed: 4,250

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 29.10%

North Carolina Mean wage annual: $41,580

Currently Employed: 3,010

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 26.70%

North Dakota Mean wage annual: $40,160

Currently Employed: 180

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 16.40%

Ohio Mean wage annual: $37,470

Currently Employed: 2,060

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 25.10%

Oklahoma Mean wage annual: $40,100

Currently Employed: 400

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 23.70%

Oregon Mean wage annual: $59,390

Currently Employed: 2,280

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 20.30%

Pennsylvania Mean wage annual: $42,210

Currently Employed: 3,700

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 19.20%

Rhode Island Mean wage annual: $43,750

Currently Employed: 170

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.40%

South Carolina Mean wage annual: $39,660

Currently Employed: 960

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 21.80%

South Dakota Mean wage annual: $34,830

Currently Employed: 110

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 13.80%

Tennessee Mean wage annual: $40,970

Currently Employed: 1,310

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 27.70%

Texas Mean wage annual: $46,190

Currently Employed: 9,050

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 28.40%

Utah Mean wage annual: $35,720

Currently Employed: 1,350

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 40.90%

Vermont Mean wage annual: $51,820

Currently Employed: 310

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.30%

Virginia Mean wage annual: $37,570

Currently Employed: 2,860

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 26.60%

Washington Mean wage annual: $61,840

Currently Employed: 4,520

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 41.30%

West Virginia Mean wage annual: $31,680

Currently Employed: 240

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 5.70%

Wisconsin Mean wage annual: $38,230

Currently Employed: 1,970

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 10.80%

Wyoming Mean wage annual: $39,390

Currently Employed: 120

Change in Employment (2016-2026): 12.60%

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.

Professional Massage Therapy Associations & Groups

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.

Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals

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.

American Massage Therapy Association

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.

FSMTA

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.

National Association of Nurse Massage Therapists

This organization is for nurses who incorporate massage into their patient care.

World Massage Therapists Association

Provides a leadership training program to help professionals advance in their careers. In addition, the group organizes an annual conference.

Alliance for Massage Therapy Education

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.

Resources for Massage Therapists

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.

Online CE Courses for Massage Therapists

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.

Massage Therapy Foundation

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

Massage Magazine includes information on state laws, continuing education courses, insurance options, and the resources professionals need in their massage therapy practice.

Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination

This page on the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ website contains information about the MBLEx.

International Federation of Equine Massage Therapists

Provides information for those who are interested in pursuing an equine massage practice.

Society for Oncology Massage

Tailored to massage therapists who want to work in oncology.

The Institute for Grief Massage

This site provides information on grief massage and its benefits.

International Journal of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

Peer-reviewed publication to educate the massage community.

Massage Therapy Journal

Published by the American Massage Therapy Association, the Massage Therapy Journal offers advice on running a business, along with online courses and insurance options.

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