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How to Become a Massage Therapist – Career Sidekick

Massage Therapist 5 Steps to Career

The process of becoming a licensed massage therapist in the United States typically involves the following common steps:

Choose an Accredited Massage Therapy Program

Enroll in a massage therapy program at a reputable school or institution. You should ensure that the program is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency, as this is often a prerequisite for licensure.

How Long Does it Take to Complete an Accredited Massage Therapy Program?

The duration of an accredited massage therapy program can vary based on several factors, including the school’s curriculum, the number of hours required by the state’s licensing board, and whether the program is part-time or full-time. On average, most accredited massage therapy programs in the United States can take anywhere from 6 months to 2 years to complete.

Here’s a general breakdown of the typical program lengths that you can expect:
  • Certificate or Diploma Programs: These programs often require around 500 to 750 hours of massage therapist training and can be completed in about 6 months to 1 year, depending on the school’s schedule and the student’s pace.
  • Associate Degree Programs: Associate degree programs in massage therapy may require approximately 1,000 hours of massage therapist training and can take around 1.5 to 2 years to complete, especially if attending on a part-time basis.

Can I Become a Massage Therapist Through Online Education

While some aspects of massage therapy education can be completed online, becoming a fully licensed massage therapist typically requires hands-on training and practical experience, which cannot be entirely substituted by online education.

Here’s how online education can play a role in your journey to becoming a massage therapist:
  • Theoretical Knowledge: Online courses can be valuable for learning the theoretical aspects of massage therapy, such as anatomy and physiology, massage techniques, ethics, and business practices.
  • Continuing Education: Many continuing education courses such as those required to keep your NCBTMB certification are available online, allowing you to expand your skills and knowledge conveniently.
  • Preparatory Courses: Some massage therapy schools and organizations offer online preparatory courses for certification exams, which can help you review and reinforce your knowledge before taking the practical exam.
What are Some Web Resources to Learn Skills to Become a Massage Therapist

To learn the skills to become a massage therapist, there are several reputable web resources available that offer courses, tutorials, and educational materials. Here are some online platforms and websites to consider:

  • Massage Schools: Many massage schools and institutes offer online programs and courses, providing comprehensive education on massage techniques, anatomy, and other relevant subjects. Examples include the Cortiva Institute and the National Holistic Institute.
  • Massage Today: This website provides articles, product reviews, and news related to massage therapy practice and business management.
  • Massage Therapy Foundation: This organization promotes the scientific research of massage therapy and provides resources related to evidence-based practice.
  • American Massage Therapy Association: AMTA offers a variety of resources, including webinars, articles, and videos to enhance your skills and knowledge.
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals: ABMP offers a library of articles, webinars, and resources to support massage therapists’ professional development.
  • Massage Magazine: Massage Magazine‘s website includes articles, videos, and online courses to help you expand your skills and stay updated on industry trends.

Gain Hands-On Experience

What are Internship Opportunities for a Massage Therapist

Internship opportunities for you as a massage therapist can provide valuable hands-on experience and exposure to real-world practice. Here are some common internship opportunities that massage therapists may consider:

  • Spa Internship: Many spas offer internship programs where you can gain experience providing massages to clients in a spa setting. This allows you to learn about spa operations, client interactions, and various massage techniques commonly used in spas.
  • Sports Massage Internship: Sports teams or athletic organizations may offer internships for you to work with athletes and provide sports massage services. This internship can be an excellent opportunity if you are interested in sports-related massage therapy.
  • Clinical Setting Internship: Some massage therapists may intern in clinical settings, such as hospitals, medical clinics, or chiropractic offices. This experience can expose you to working with patients with specific medical conditions and collaborating with healthcare professionals.
  • Wellness Center Internship: Wellness centers that focus on holistic health and alternative therapies may offer internship opportunities for massage therapists. These centers may provide exposure to other modalities like acupuncture, yoga, or aromatherapy.
  • Private Practice Internship: Some established massage therapists may offer internships in their private practices. This arrangement allows you to work closely with experienced therapists, observe client interactions, and assist in various aspects of running a massage practice.

What Skills Will I Learn as a Massage Therapist

As a massage therapist, you will learn a variety of skills that are essential for providing effective and safe massage treatments to clients. These skills encompass both technical and interpersonal aspects of the profession. Here are some of the key skills you can expect to learn as a massage therapist:

  • Massage Techniques: You will learn various massage techniques, such as Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, myofascial release, trigger point therapy, and more. Each technique targets different areas of the body and serves specific therapeutic purposes.
  • Anatomy and Physiology: Understanding human anatomy and physiology is crucial for identifying muscles, bones, and body systems, allowing you to tailor your massage treatments to meet individual client needs.
  • Client Assessment: You will learn how to assess clients’ health histories and specific concerns to determine the most appropriate and beneficial massage approach for them.
  • Communication: Effective communication is vital in establishing rapport with clients, understanding their preferences, and ensuring they are comfortable throughout the massage session.
  • Body Mechanics: Proper body mechanics are essential to prevent injury to both the therapist and the client during massage sessions. You will learn how to use your body efficiently and maintain good posture while performing massages.
  • Ethical Practice: You will be trained in ethical guidelines and professional boundaries to maintain a safe and respectful environment for your clients.
  • Hygiene and Safety: You will learn proper hygiene practices and safety protocols to maintain a clean and safe working environment.
  • Time Management: Efficiently managing your time during each massage session is important to ensure that you can deliver a complete and beneficial treatment within the allotted time.
  • Client Relations: Building positive and professional relationships with clients is crucial for client retention and a successful massage therapy practice.
  • Self-Care: Learning self-care techniques is essential for maintaining your own physical and mental well-being as a massage therapist, as the profession can be physically demanding.

Additionally, if you plan to run your own practice, you may also learn basic business and marketing skills to promote your services and manage your practice effectively.

Obtain Certification

After completing the massage therapy program, consider obtaining a national massage therapist certification. While this is not always mandatory, it can enhance your credentials and demonstrate your expertise to potential employers.

What Is a Popular Certification to Obtain as a Massage Therapist?

The best certification to obtain as a massage therapist can vary depending on your career goals, location, and the specific focus you wish to pursue. However, one widely recognized and respected certification in the massage therapy field is the Board Certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Here are some reasons why NCBTMB Board Certification is often considered valuable:

  • National Recognition: NCBTMB is a nationally recognized organization in the United States, and its Board Certification carries weight across the country.
  • Rigorous Requirements: To become NCBTMB Board Certified, you need to meet strict eligibility criteria, including completing a minimum number of massage therapy training hours and passing a comprehensive exam.
  • Continuing Education: Board-certified therapists are required to engage in ongoing continuing education, ensuring that they stay up-to-date with the latest techniques and advancements in the field.
  • Professional Credibility: Board Certification enhances your professional credibility, as it demonstrates to clients and employers that you have met the highest standards in the profession.
  • Advancement Opportunities: Some job opportunities or positions may require or prefer applicants with NCBTMB Board Certification, giving you a competitive edge in the job market.

While NCBTMB Board Certification is highly regarded, other certifications from reputable organizations, such as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) or the Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP), can also add value to your credentials.

Is It Difficult to Obtain NCBTMB Board Certification?

Obtaining NCBTMB Board Certification can be challenging, but it is achievable with adequate preparation and dedication. The certification process is rigorous to ensure that you meet high standards of competency and professionalism. Here are some factors to consider when pursuing NCBTMB Board Certification:

  • Educational Requirements: To be eligible for Board Certification, you must complete a minimum number of massage therapy training hours from an NCBTMB-approved school. The number of required hours can vary based on your state’s regulations and the certification level you are seeking.
  • Comprehensive Exam: The NCBTMB Board Certification exam is a comprehensive test that assesses your knowledge and skills in various massage therapy techniques, anatomy and physiology, ethics, and more. The exam may include both written and practical components.
  • Preparation: Preparing for the certification exam typically involves studying various massage therapy textbooks, taking review courses, and practicing massage techniques. Adequate preparation is crucial to passing the exam successfully.

Apply for State Licensure

Apply for a massage therapy license with the relevant state licensing board or agency. This may involve submitting your educational transcripts, proof of certification, and other required documents.

Pass the State Licensing Examination

Most states require massage therapists to pass a state-approved licensing examination. This exam typically includes both written and practical components to assess your knowledge and skills.

While the requirements vary from state to state, you should be adequately prepared if you have completed the required training and certification.

Obtain Liability Insurance

Many massage therapists opt to obtain professional liability insurance to protect themselves in case of any unforeseen incidents or accidents during practice.

This may be provided by your employer. It is always a good idea to ask when applying for a job.


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