Massage Therapy Degree Program

Massage Therapy- A comprehensive look at the diverse profession of bodywork.

Highly respected massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, who has operated a successful independent practice for many years based in Kona, Hawaii, spoke to Allied Health World to help educate our readers on the different modalities, and philosophical approaches to

What is Massage Therapy?

Massage is one of the most ancient of all the healing arts. Its original inception is known to be thousands of years ago though it would be safe to say that some form of massage existed even before the creation of established modalities. Massage is a very personal and individualized form of bodywork that involves the use of strong and capable hands to physically manipulate skin, muscles, and joints as well as the connective tissues of the body; fascia, ligaments, and tendons. Massage is even more relevant and useful today than it has been through its many years of evolution. New methods or modalities have been developed in more recent years that address the needs of modern man and woman. Massage is so ever evolving and applicable to modern life that in fact 60 of the 80 established modalities have been created in just the past two decades.

Massage therapy can be extremely practical, and in fact necessary, or it can be a simple invigorating luxury. It is used therapeutically to aid in the complete recovery of injury in a way that allows for full range of motion to be restored to an injured area, or it can simply be used as a way to relax and feel better by releasing muscular tension and reducing stress. Few things that are so genuinely good for us feel as good as a massage. Anyone who has ever had a professional massage will attest to the fact that the results are tangible and very real. There is no denying the incredible health benefits, both physically and psychologically, of a good massage performed by a well-trained, capable, and personally vested massage therapist. Learn more about massage therapy training.

Why do people visit massage therapists?

Depending on the type of practice a massage therapist is involved in, he or she may see very different types of clients for very different reasons. A medical massage therapist whose specialty is therapeutic or rehabilitative massage will most often work with people who have injuries that resulted from auto, work, or sports related accidents. Massage therapists working in hotels and spas, on the other hand, will much less often find themselves working with clients for the express purpose of injury rehabilitation. Hotel and spa based massage therapists will more often see clients who simply want to be pampered and invigorated by enjoying the simple pleasure of a massage.

Even outside a clinical or rehabilitative setting, massage therapists of all kinds will frequently work with clients who have complaints about ongoing aches and pains that may be the result of old injuries that never received treatment. Most all massage therapists will find themselves at some point addressing specific conditions related to injury, whether it is for therapeutic rehabilitation, or to address a decades old neglected injury.

Sandra Bennett explains, “Most of my clients are auto or work comp accidents referred by their physicians. Insurance pays for their massages. About 25% of my clients come for preventative reasons and pay cash; some just want stress relief.”

What are the medically and psychologically recognized benefits of massage?

Massage addresses many fundamental aspects of the human condition far beyond the more obvious benefits of promoting physical health and well-being. Even among certain factions of western medicine, which typically look only to reproducible and physically measurable results for proof of efficacy, there has been an awakening to the psychological, psychophysical, and even emotional benefits that massage can provide. By simply being subjected to touch a person can experience an improved sense of well-being and a heightened awareness of his or her own body. Bodywork has been known to help reduce and eliminate anxiety while boosting the recipient’s self esteem. This would come as no surprise to students and practitioners of psychology who have long recognized the psychophysical connection between the kinds of touch people receive during massage and their psychological and emotional states of being.

Learn more about massage therapy certification.

The state of submission and total relaxation that can be achieved in the hands of a skilled massage therapist has also been recognized as being able to reduce stress levels. In some instances this stress-reduction has been shown to be significant enough to lower blood pressure enough to abate hypertension.

Massage Therapy Course

What can I expect from programs offering massage courses?

What can I expect from programs offering massage courses? There are massage therapy degrees available at both the bachelor’s and the master’s level; however, most students elect to begin with either certificate programs or associate-level massage therapy degrees. The reason for this is that the only real advancement in this profession comes from owning your own massage therapy business. Since most students don’t have such a goal initially, they tend to gravitate towards massage courses that lead to completion of either certificate or associate-level programs to more quickly secure employment.
Each school is different, but most massage therapy schools with a certificate program will require between 500 and 1000 hours of

What Can I expect of massage courses?

So what can you expect to learn in school? Here are some of the massage courses that you will be involved in at any massage therapy school that teaches the different modalities of bodywork.

Anatomy and Physiology
These massage courses are the educational backbone for anyone interested in a career in medicine or any career that deals with the body. Massage therapists need to intricately understand how the human body works so that they can better understand how to soothe it.

Kinesiology is the study of movement, specifically the movement of associated muscle groups and how movement affects the body as a whole. These massage therapy classes will incorporate physical movement and its importance in keeping the body healthy and strong.
Pathology is the study of disease. This massage course will help you to learn about the various different disease processes that can affect the body, and this will help you to grasp the concept of how massage therapy can be relaxing and rehabilitating to some of those conditions.

Massage Therapy Degree

What are my options for massage therapy degrees?

Typically when considering a career in massage therapy and exploring the educational requirements for entering this profession, there is little discussion of massage therapy degrees. Most often individuals begin the practice of massage therapy and bodywork with a certificate earned through 500 hours of training consisting of academic study of body systems, massage theory, pathology, business practices, and of course applied massage and bodywork. Certificate programs through massage therapy schools provide the foundation for a successful career performing massage therapy and bodywork, but for those who wish to pursue greater scholastic challenges and increase their knowledge base and scope of practice, more advanced massage therapy degree options are available.
A massage therapy certificate is an acceptable level of education for meeting licensure requirements in most states, and it is also

Are there advanced massage therapy degrees?

Make no mistake; although a certificate will get you started on a fun and personally rewarding massage therapy career, more advanced massage therapy degrees have the potential to take you further. This, of course, means different things to different people. To some this may mean expanding their scope of practice to include a greater variation of modalities; both medically accepted as well as complimentary and alternative. To others this may mean more business and managerial training so as to be able to expand their business to include a greater number of employees and even multiple offices. And still others may seek out opportunities to become educators themselves; providing the next generation of massage therapists and bodywork specialists with the training and inspiration they need to establish their own practices.

Whatever your personal and professional goals may be; whether simple and sustainable, grand and entrepreneurial, or benevolent and inspired, there is a massage therapy degree that is appropriate for you.

Associate’s Degree

In just two years you could earn an Associate’s degree in a major related to massage therapy and use the additional course knowledge to apply towards a Bachelor’s of Science degree.

Bachelor’s Degree

Master’s degrees related to health and wellness can be earned in two years following the successful completion of a bachelor’s degree program. These massage therapy programs are designed to accommodate the schedule of busy individuals who are already actively working. Master’s degrees for individuals practicing massage therapy will often focus on various aspects of both the business side of operating an independent practice as well as the human side of health and wellness.

Doctorate Degree

A doctorate degree represents the echelon of scholastic achievement. This highly advanced degree in a major related to human health and wellness allows for limitless opportunities to practice much more advanced levels of medicine that incorporates massage therapy and bodywork. A doctorate will also allow you to professor at a university.

Massage Therapy Jobs

Massage therapy is a diverse profession that allows for either conventional employment or independent practice. Sandra Bennett, an independently employed and highly respected veteran massage therapist of many years, spoke with Allied Health World to help explain what can be expected in terms of hours, setting, and job outlook for both salaried and independently employed massage

Where do massage therapists work?

The places one would expect to see massage therapists working would include hotels, spas, resorts, physical therapy clinics, chiropractic offices, health clubs, universities with well-funded sports programs, or in the offices of independent practices of their own. In fact, according to information published by the Bureau of Labor statistics, 64% of massage therapists are independently employed.

Some massage therapists who are independently employed are more nomadic with their practice, and either make house calls by bringing the massage table to their client’s homes, or by actually taking their practice to the public. Some of the more unusual places where massage therapists have been known to sell their services include airports, shopping malls, flea markets, farmers markets or fairs. With prior arrangements made with the property manager and tenants, massage therapists may even find work in office complexes giving chair massages at the rate of $1.00 per minute.

Unique opportunities are also available to those who wish to travel with professional or collegiate sports teams that staff massage therapists to help with injury rehabilitation therapy and injury prevention techniques. Some large corporate employers, like Apple and Boeing, have been known to staff massage therapists at their offices to make the services readily available to members of their corporate staff.

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What is the job outlook like for licensed and accredited massage therapists?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects stronger than average job growth for massage therapists, projecting a 20% increase in the number of gainfully employed therapists over the next several years. An increased public awareness of the benefits of treating the whole person by holistic means, coupled with a growing acceptance by the conventional medical community, has lead to an increased demand for the healing art of massage therapy.

What are work schedules like for massage therapists?

Massage therapists who work in one of the many places where they are commonly employed like hotels, spas, clinics, etc, work standard hours with very little deviation.

Among the many great benefits of being self-employed as a massage therapist is the ability to create one’s own work schedule. Sandra Bennett explained, “Working for myself I can set the schedule that suits me. This has changed according to the needs of my family. Currently, with no children left at home, I can work whenever I want. I find that for the type of massage I give, I don’t like to do more than five a day. Some days I’ll schedule only mornings; sometimes I want the morning to do other things. I used to avoid scheduling on Wednesdays so I could golf. Or if I want to give myself a four-day weekend, I can. Generally I like to split them up and give three massages in the morning, take a two or three hour lunch and do two more in the late afternoon to catch the after work people.”

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How is working as a massage therapist personally rewarding?

Sandra was wistful and modest in her description of the personal rewards she reaps as a massage therapist; giving most of the credit for wellness to her clients themselves: “I don’t care what field one is in; I believe the greatest contribution we can make to society is to serve others. And yes, it’s very fulfilling to have people tell me that they are no longer in pain and have seen tremendous improvement, even though I know that the healing is innate.”

Independently employed massage therapists also enjoy the freedom to work the hours of their choosing allowing them more time to devote to family and social life. They also enjoy a comfortable income as well as all the other freedoms and financial benefits that come with self-employment.

Massage Therapy Programs

What can I expect from a massage therapy program?

Massage therapy programs have been refined over the decades so as to provide students with the essentials for a successful career. This means that beyond exhaustive training in the various techniques of the more commonly used modalities of massage, students who attend massage therapy schools will also find themselves learning how to operate an independent practice of their own.
In order for massage therapists’ businesses to thrive, they need more than just a refined expertise in their chosen modality of massage. These very often self-employed entrepreneurs also need some professional training that allows them to successfully establish, maintain, manage, and market their independent practice.

What types of non-bodywork classes can I expect from a massage therapy program?

The fastest and most common way of entering this profession has always been through a certificate program. These programs

Massage Therapy Frequently Asked Questions

Are clients given homework or exercise to supplement their massage therapy?

In order to be effective, the work performed by massage therapists must be supplementary to the stretching and exercise that clients perform on their own. Because clients only see their massage therapists a couple times a week at best, they must

How do alternative modalities differ from medically accepted modalities of massage?

Certain types of massage are included in the Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) grouping. CAM is used as a short form term that describes anything that is employed for the purpose of improving human health but that is, as of yet, not supported by the practitioners of western medicine. Included in the CAM grouping would be Qigong, Ayurevedic Massage, Stone Massage, Acupressure, and various other modalities referred to as energy techniques. It is important to note that many of the less conventional types of massage are hugely popular, and are backed by the testimonials of many thousands of people who attest to their effectiveness. Not all of these alternative forms of massage therapy exist on the periphery; in fact, some are held in very high esteem among many people in the therapeutic massage community. Even massage therapists who have chosen to make use of medically recognized modalities in their practice, and members of the medical community who are open to the idea of a holistic approach to human health, have recognized the benefits of many modalities classified as complimentary and alternative.

The decision to embrace less conventional modalities doesn’t have to be exclusive. Many massage therapists incorporate both medically accepted and complimentary and alternative modalities into their practice so as to be able to meet the needs of a variety of different clients.

Learn more about massage therapy certification.

How do massage therapists choose which modalities they will incorporate into their practice?

Many forms of massage are recognized by the medical and rehabilitation therapy communities as being extremely beneficial and as having tangible results that can be proven by western scientific methods. These medically recognized modalities include myofascial alignment, deep tissue massage, and neuromuscular massage. These medically proven techniques are the one’s most often employed for accident victims and as part of rehabilitation therapy. Veteran massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, explained how her personal career goals influenced her decision to study more conventional and medically accepted forms of massage, “My initial vision was to work with the medical community and therefore I didn’t spend a lot of time learning energy techniques; not that these cannot be healing, but the doctors with whom I relate are scientists who generally need hard evidence.”

Because many modalities are culturally derived, the psychological affect of one of these culturally derived massages can be profound for clients who either come from or relate to a certain cultural background. When choosing a culturally derived modality to incorporate into practice, it is important to consider the client base in the area in which one intends to practice. This is largely why Sandra Bennett, whose massage practice is established in Hawaii, incorporates the traditional Hawaiian art of Lomi Lomi massage. To this point Sandra said, “The modalities one chooses are also dependent on the clientele one wishes to work with. Someone who does primarily relaxation massage will be a big disappointment to someone who wants specific healing in a particular area; and someone medically focused will disappoint the client looking for relaxation.” She went on to ask rhetorically of aspiring massage students, “Are you interested in geriatrics, pregnancy massage, medical, relaxation, hotel work, spiritual or somatic work. It’s all based on a personal vision.”

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What are the different modalities or methods of massage therapy?

There are 80 different recognized modalities or methods of massage that a massage therapist can choose to specialize in. Some of the more ancient modalities, many of which are still practiced today, have a cultural heritage and are geographically derived. These modalities are often taken up as a preferred method by massage therapists who were brought up in a certain part of the world, or who where otherwise indoctrinated into a certain culture. This is true whether it is east Indian culture as is the case with Ayurevedic massage, European as is the case with Russian or Swedish massage, Chinese as is the case with Acupressure, or Polynesian as is the case with Lomi Lomi. Each modality is recognized either within its cultural community or universally among all cultures as having benefits. Some are known to be more effective when used for specific reasons like injury rehabilitation and are accepted by the practitioners of conventional western medicine. Some ancient Asian and native practices, as well as some that were developed in more recent years, don’t have the same medically recognized distinction. The following abridged list represents some of the more commonly employed modalities of massage, both those that are recognized as being medically effective and those that are considered alternative or complimentary.

Acupressure is an ancient Chinese modality that combines acupuncture with massage. Acupressure massage therapists use their knowledge of pressure points on the body, applying pressure to these specific areas as part of the healing process.
Anma is also a form of traditional Chinese massage developed by nomadic people who established mobile massage practices that served royalty, military officers, and the societal elite. It involves the less subtle techniques of kneading and deep tissue massage.
Ayurevedic Massage often involves two therapists working in concert using hot herbal oils. This modality is East Indian in origin and is often coupled with yoga and meditation as part of the holistic healing process.
Balinese Massage, rooted in Bali, incorporates hot stones and heated oils to improve the flow of oxygen and blood throughout the body. It is gentle in nature so has the benefit of helping clients’ achieve a state of relaxation.
Barefoot Deep Tissue Massage incorporates the use of the heels, sesamoid, and arches of the massage therapist’s feet to apply tension, compression, and transverse friction in a deep tissue massage. It is most successful on large muscle groups like the thighs and back as it allows for greater force to be applied without the single-pointed pressure that thumbs and elbows would exert.
Bowen Therapy is an Australian modality that seeks to restore lymphatic flow without prolonged contact with the muscles. It does this by using a hand movement that rolls over muscles, ligaments, and tendons without over-working the troubled area.
Breema combines Thai massage and partner yoga, and seeks to create strong mind-body awareness. It is subtler than some other forms of physical yoga in that it doesn’t require extreme exertion or muscular contortion. It incorporates the nine principles of Breema: body comfort, no extra, firmness and gentleness, full participation, mutual support, no judgment, single moment/single activity, no hurry/no pause, and no force.
Champissage is a form of alternative east Indian massage that focuses on the head, neck, and face with the intent of clearing blocks that exist in the energy channels of the body known as chakras. It has been used to address everything from stress to hair loss.
Deep Tissue Massage is often used on athletes or other people who are subject to consistent and intense physical exertion. It is often recommended for people recovering from injury. This modality seeks to relieve tension and pain in the muscles and fascia through deep penetrating massage.
Esalen Massage involves gentle rocking movements coupled with energy balance, passive joint exercises, and deep structural work with the intent of addressing muscular issues and joint problems.
Hilot Massage is of Philippine origin and is often used as a less expensive alternative to conventional medicine in rural Philippines. It combines massage and other traditional healing techniques, and is used for everything from correcting musculoskeletal issues to inducing labor.
Lomi Lomi is traditionally Hawaiian, but has been seen in other island nations like Tahiti and Samoa. It incorporates the use of all possible parts of the body including knees, elbows, and feet, as well as tools made from stones and sticks. It is used to facilitate relaxation, and even as a way to aid in digestion.
Medical Massage includes many forms of medically supported techniques including cartoid sinus massage and decongestive therapy, which can be used as part of traditional approaches to treating breast cancer and many other common ailments of varying severity.
Meso-American Massage is a form of soft tissue and structural massage that has been retained as part of the American indigenous cultural heritage. The specifics of this healing art are traditionally handed down by word of mouth as part of oral tradition.
Myofascial Release makes use of stretching, shear compression, multidirectional tension, and skin rolling to loosen up fascia and muscles so as to eliminate pain and restore full range of motion. This modality is very commonly used for injury rehabilitation.
Neuromuscular Massage involves concentrated massage focused on a specific trigger point in the body. It is used to address pain, stiffness, muscle spasms and related immobility in parts of the body linked to a problematic trigger point.
Postural Integration is a form of alternative bodywork that incorporates deep tissue massage, breathing exercises, bodily movements and body awareness, along with emotional expression. Postural Integration has been coupled with various forms of psychological therapy in an approach that promotes wellness holistically.
Raynor Massage is a deep tissue approach that focuses on the abdomen with the intent of removing blocks in the natural flow of chi throughout the body, along with the release of pent up emotions.
Reflexology is an alternative approach that is centered on the idea that all parts of the body are linked to specific corresponding points on the hands, feet, and ears. This form of massage seeks to improve circulation, relieve tension, and promote normal function of the entire body through massage performed on the hands and feet.
Russian Massage approaches massage therapy in a dynamic, variant, and cyclical way by beginning with a slow and gentle massage, then moving on to a deep and vigorous massage, then finally returning to a slow and gentle massage to complete the session.
Shiatsu translates from Japanese as “finger pressure”. This ancient modality focuses on the acupuncture/acupressure points throughout the body using thumbs, fingers, and palms of the hand.
Stone Massage uses sanitized and heated stones placed both under the client and on the client’s back along the spine. This stone placement is done in conjunction with massage performed using heated oil and stones held in the massage therapist’s hands.
Structural Integration incorporates slow and deep massage techniques coupled with a reeducation process that teaches the client how to properly align body form in the course of daily movement. The goal of this modality is to restore natural length, alignment, and balance to the body’s myofascial system.
Swedish Massage makes use of five specific massage strokes: gliding, kneading, rhythmic tapping, cross-fiber friction, and vibration. This modality has been proven effective in treating pain, stiffness of joints, and even osteoarthritis.
Sports Massage was originally designed for the unique physical needs of athletes and incorporates Swedish massage and trigger point techniques to address specific problem areas. It is particularly effective when used in the recovery of sports related injuries.
Thai Massage involves placing the recipient of the massage in positions similar to those of hatha or physical yoga. Its focus is on both stretching and acupressure, and is considered a form of assisted yoga.
Traditional Chinese Massage is based on the principals of traditional Chinese medicine. There are two schools: Tui na, which involves stretching, pushing, and kneading muscles; and Zhi ha, which involves pressure applied to acupressure points.
Trager Approach incorporates gentle and rhythmic massage intended to bring about deep relaxation, increased mobility, and optimal physical performance. This modality also seeks to reeducate the recipient’s neuromuscular system so as to bring change to reflex responses.
Trigger Point Therapy involves the deactivation of photomicrographed and electronically measured trigger points in the body that can cause pain elsewhere in the body. An example of this is apparent when considering the existence of trigger points located in the back, neck, and shoulders, which when tense can be the cause of headaches.
Visceral Manipulation is a Mayan massage that is still used throughout Latin America. It is a modality that specifically targets the abdomen as the means by which to address overall physical health.
Watsu combines hydrotherapy with Shiatsu massage in which both the massage therapist and client are in a waist-to-chest-deep pool of water. The client is guided through a series of movements intended to activate energy channels, or chi, that runs through the body.

Massage Therapy Salary

How much do independently employed massage therapists earn?

The pay for massage therapists can vary greatly, but, according to the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), their average income, including tips, was about $22,165 in 2014. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) places this much higher, at about $41,790, as of May 2014. However, income for massage therapists can rely on a number of factors, including how many massages they do per week, any specialties or modalities they work in, where their clientele is based, and so on.

However, the most important factor in their income may be the repeat business they have, according to the AMTA. Most are not salaried and work on a per-hour basis. The AMTA shows that the typical massage therapist charged $68 for a one-hour massage in 2014, up from $65 in 2013. Considering related charges, such as overhead and insurance, this may come down to about $43 per hour, including tips, reports the AMTA.

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Is massage covered by health insurance?

Some health insurance companies may cover massage therapy, but typically coverage is provided through: major preferred provider organizations (PPOs), automobile insurance and worker's compensation, according to the Holistic Massage and Wellness Clinics (HMWC). Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs), Medicare and Medicaid are less likely to cover massage, reports HMWC.

Where can massage therapists work?

At least 15 percent of adult Americans received a massage between July 2013 to July 2014, according to the AMTA, showing that there is a need for massage therapy in the U.S. Unlike other jobs, therapists are not stuck working in just one place in the occupation. In fact, 60 percent of therapists work as sole practitioners, meaning they are employed by themselves and run their own businesses, according to the AMTA. This can give them flexibility as to when they work but also as to where they work. As a matter of fact, 37 percent work out of their own home while 36 percent work out of their own office, shows the AMTA. Others choose to be employed for organizations such as spas, healthcare facilities or in corporate settings.

Massage Therapy Schools

Massage therapy is a profession that most states tend to require licensure for. In fact, there are currently at least 42 states that do require a state licensure. In order to be able to attain your state license in massage therapy, most states mandate that you attend a massage therapy school and earn the minimum of a certificate program.

There are many great massage therapy schools on the market today. Your job is to find a school that has an enticing program that can work flexibly around your schedule. Let’s take a look at what some of your options are for attending massage therapy schools.

Massage Therapy School Online

While it may sound surprising to you, you do have online options for massage therapy. With the level of hands-on training that this type of profession requires, it seems strange that you might be able to take such courses over the internet, but we are living in a growing, changing, technologically advanced world; allowing for the academic portion of massage therapy school to be easily fulfilled online.

Online massage therapy schooling is certainly the best choice for some students. With online education, you never have to worry

Additionally, most of the massage therapy schools are now offering programs that you can complete on a full-time or part-time basis. This is just another way that these massage therapy schools are trying to make online education easier for you.

Massage Therapy Schools Internship Programs

You will have an internship, or clinical assessment period, during the course of any massage therapy program. Most schools will require about 30 hours of clinical trial; however, some schools do require more.

The purpose of the massage therapy internship is to get you comfortable with performing massage; to show you how massage therapy can be an effective tool in promoting health and wellness, and to help you apply your education to real-world scenarios.

Now that you are more familiar with the educational process of massage therapy certificate and degree programs, you are now ready to make the decision to begin your education today. If you are interested in this type of career, simply click on the button above to complete a short form. An enrollment counselor will then contact you to answer your questions and help you get started in this exciting profession.

Massage Therapy Training

With dozens of specialized modalities of massage to choose from, deciding which one to study may seem overwhelming. Sandra Bennett, a recognized leader in the field of massage therapy, spoke with Allied Health World to explain the education and training

How do I decide which massage therapy program is right for me?

Veteran massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, described the importance of researching the many modalities of massage and pursuing those that best align with one’s personal vision of his or her professional life. She said of the schools in her area: “We have two schools in Kona. One is geared towards producing hotel therapists who know a little about a lot of modalities. Then there is the school that I went to that is sports oriented and focused on muscular massage.”

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What courses will be taught in message therapy training programs?

Accredited training programs for massage therapists will include course study in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, business ethics, and will also provide hands-on instructional practice in various modalities and the specific techniques that comprise these. Programs typically focus on the more commonly practiced and medically accepted modalities; however, there are specialized schools that provide training in the alternative and complimentary forms of massage therapy.

Are there part-time massage therapy training programs?

Full-time and part-time programs are available and can typically be completed in six to 18 months respectively. Many programs offered through accredited schools will also assist with apprenticeship placement. This allows students to complete the 600 hours of apprentice practice needed to meet the licensing requirements set by some states, and the requirements for national certification set by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Massage Therapy College

Massage Therapy colleges include community colleges, vocational schools, technical schools, as well as private colleges and specialized universities. Because most bodywork professionals begin their careers with a certificate, it is less common to see students enrolled in university studying massage therapy exclusively. In terms of time cost and professional necessity, community colleges, vocational schools, and private schools offering technical programs in health and bodywork vocations are where students of massage therapy are most often found. This is because state licensure and national certification is typically made available to students who have completed massage therapy certificate programs, so the pursuit of further study is most often elective.
Massage therapy colleges, community colleges and private technical schools offering massage therapy programs provide

Can doctors incorporate massage therapy into their practice?

Medical doctors and psychologists alike have come to recognize the known benefits of massage. In recent years there has been a bit of a shift in thinking in the established western medical community such that practitioners of conventional medicine are becoming more open to the idea that human health is best maintained when the individual patient is treated holistically. The allopathic process of symptom evaluation and treatment remains the basis for all western medicine, but more and more MDs and doctors of psychology are beginning to welcome new ideas. Those who are open to the use of massage therapy as part of the wellness process, have been known to say; “Even if we don’t know how it works, we know that it works.”

It would be too early to describe this as a paradigm change, as the conventional medical community as a whole only accepts a select few of the 80 modalities as legitimate, and even those they only see as being useful in a very limited capacity.

Massage therapy colleges and private universities that specialize in alternative and natural approaches to health and wellness have welcomed medical doctors and psychologists enthusiastically. For medical doctors who have a full understanding of human physiology and biology, a certificate level program wouldn’t be appropriate. That is why very often massage therapy colleges have the privilege of teaching advanced massage techniques and more specialized modalities to doctors, psychologists, and physical therapists who have made the decision to incorporate massage into their practice.

Massage Therapy Classes

It has been recognized that comprehensive massage therapy programs need to address a multitude of things. Of paramount importance, of course, is the skill set that the massage therapist or bodywork practitioner develops. This ensures that clients receive safe and effective treatments from knowledgeable and well-practiced professionals. This will involve training in the various well-established and medically recognized approaches to massage; those that are based on an understanding of human physiology, as well as psychology and the human condition.
Aspiring massage therapists can look forward to a diverse cross-section of academic and practical applied training to prepare for


In the context of massage therapy, classes in human physiology are much more than just a memorization of the various body systems and the organs that comprise them. Massage therapy courses in physiology will teach students how and why certain targeted areas like connective tissues (fascia), joints, tendons, ligaments, musculature, and skin respond favorably to massage. This removes some of the mystery and brings to bear the hard science behind why these physical components of the human body are targeted for massage, and how targeted massage in these areas can affect overall health and wellness.


With 80 recognized modalities of massage, it may seem overwhelming to consider an education in this vast healing art. The good news is that massage therapy programs are now designed to introduce students to a well-rounded sampling of the many modalities, with a specific focus on those modalities that have been recognized by western medicine to have tangible health benefits. More often than not, this would include Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, and Postural Integration.


Within the 80 different modalities of massage there are numerous techniques by which massage therapists apply the approach. These techniques involve integrating the use of all the tools at the disposal of the massage therapist. This means a massage therapy class in technique would prepare students to make use of their elbows, knees, forearms, fingers, and even feet to perform massage. With these various body parts the massage therapist or bodywork professional may knead, roll, push, stretch, apply pressure, or incorporate repetitive sliding, gliding, and even tapping motions to address a target area.

Massage Therapy Certification

To help our readers better understand the requirements for state licensure and national certification in massage therapy, Allied Health World answers some of the more frequently asked questions people have about acquiring and retaining a license to practice

What license is needed to work as a massage therapist?

Most states regulate the practice of massage therapy by requiring licensure. A license to practice is granted upon completion of an accredited massage therapy program, which includes a number of hours spent in clinical practice, and the successful completion of an exam that tests related knowledge and applied skills. Because this test and the subsequent licensure is administered and granted on a state level, it isn’t transferrable to other states.

What is required to maintain state licensure as a massage therapist?

Only a few states have continuing education requirements to maintain state licensure, and these requirements are typically minimal. To remain licensed, most states only require massage therapists to submit an application for license renewal along with a fee that is typically less than $200.

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Is there national certification in massage therapy?

An organization called the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) provides national certification that satisfies the requirements for licensure enforced by most states. The NCBTMB administers an exam called the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB). Completing a program through an accredited school and successfully completing the NCETMB exam will earn graduates the NCTMB credential, which stands for Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. NCTMB certification must be renewed every four years, but it isn’t particularly difficult to meet the requirements for doing so. Massage therapists who wish to retain the NCTMB credential are expected to complete 200 hours of therapeutic massage or continuing education every four years.

How to become a Massage Therapist

Massage therapists are deeply devoted and highly sensitive individuals who can effectively help to bring healing and injury rehabilitation to their clients. Allied Health World spoke with highly respected veteran massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, to provide insight into what it takes to excel in the field of massage therapy:

Steps to becoming a massage therapist:

  1. Consider the setting in which you would feel most comfortable working, whether this is a hotel or spa, or in a clinical setting like a chiropractor’s office. Perhaps even get some exposure to these respective settings by seeking massages of your own.
  2. Research the various modalities of massage and choose a few based on which are of most interest to you. Consider the clients you’d want to work with and whether you’d prefer a medically accepted modality, or one considered to be complimentary or alternative. Remember, being familiar with a few different modalities from each camp would increase the range of clients available to you.
  3. Select a school that offers the modalities of your choice. Test for and successfully pass either your state’s licensing board exam, or the NCBTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork) exam for national certification.

What does it take to start an independent massage therapy practice?

One of the unique things about establishing an independent practice as a massage therapist is how accessible and relatively inexpensive it is. Sandra Bennett told us, “The overhead for me was astonishing little. I needed to buy a table, a few sheets, and some lotion. Some may rent a space in a doctor’s office- usually a chiropractor or physical therapist- but I opted to work out of my home.” The cost of a good quality stationary or portable massage table is between $300 and $700, which would represent the majority of the start-up cost of establishing an independent massage therapy practice from home. Sandra went on to say, “It helps to be comfortable with bookkeeping, managerial skills, and to have a belief in what one does; all of these put together will give a massage therapist what she needs to run her own business, which affords one the freedom of self employment and the monetary benefits, tax write offs, and everything else that owning a business entails.”

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The bulk of overhead associated with an independent practice would otherwise be associated with the rent or lease of office space or a studio. This cost, of course, would be variable based on the location of the practice, but it is not uncommon for independent massage therapists to pay $1,500 to $2,500 monthly for a studio in either a high-traffic retail area or a room in a chiropractor’s office. Independently employed massage therapists new to the profession will often embrace the cost of rented or leased space as a means by which to present their practice as established and professional, or as a way to associate with a medical practice. This can be strategically effective, but it isn’t always necessary. Skilled massage therapists carry the testimonials of their clients with them wherever they practice, and word of mouth means everything in this industry. With a solid client base and referrals, a massage practice run from home, or even one that brings the practice to the client’s home, can be very successful.

How do independently employed massage therapists market their services?

Long-time massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, described her experiences with marketing her services and explained how her approach is actually common among many massage therapists who have chosen to start independent practices of their own: “Marketing in this business is largely done by word of mouth. I began by sending out letters to local doctors letting them know of my services, offering them complimentary massages to see first hand what I do. Many didn’t take me up on it, but actually sent me referrals anyhow.”

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What are the personality traits of a good massage therapist?

In order to be truly effective as a massage therapist such that actual healing is brought about, a practitioner must be able to commit themselves completely to the needs and overall well being of their clients during massage. This holds true even when working with a client with a disagreeable personality. This often means overcoming personal issues that may be occupying the mind, personal stresses, and even physical tiredness, which will affect the therapist’s ability to perform massage effectively.

Massage therapists must truly appreciate their fellow humans and be free from judgment, squeamishness, and aversion to physical contact. The work may call on a practitioner to massage a client who has bad acne all over his back, or a client with an abundance of body hair.

When veteran massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, was asked what physical attributes and personality traits are required to be successful long term in the field of massage therapy, she summed it up succinctly by saying, “It’s important to be a good listener, to be non-judgmental, and to have a strong belief in massage therapy. It helps if one is overly sensitive, and physically strong at the same time.” When asked to explain what she meant by being both overly sensitive and strong Sandra went on to say, “Massage therapy is not for everyone. I believe there is a certain gift of sensitivity and ability to feel below the surface that must be coupled with physical strength and mental focus.”

What are the physical attributes of a good massage therapist?

Physical strength is crucial to being a good massage therapist. A massage therapist’s hands must be strong enough to be capable of penetrating deep into the muscle and fascia of clients who may big in stature. This is absolutely fundamental in order to effectively perform most modalities of massage. Massage therapists often perform specific strength and flexibility exercises with their hands to avoid repeated motion injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome. The work of a massage therapist also involves standing and maneuvering around clients so as to effectively reach areas of the body in need of attention. The inability to handle the physical demands of the job is the number one reason cited for attrition in the field of massage therapy.

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We asked veteran massage therapist, Sandra Bennett, what advice she would offer to somebody considering a career in massage therapy: She responded by saying, “I would ask: Does massage therapy fulfill the vision you have for your life? Are you entrepreneurial? Could you work in a spa or clinical environment? Can you handle paperwork? Are you physically strong? Do you have good people sills? Are you a tactile learner? Do you have the confidence to market yourself? Are you a good listener? If they can answer yes to these questions I would suggest specializing in one of two modalities and getting really good at those. Study some bookkeeping, marketing, yoga or Pilates training and work with a doctor for a while to hone in on practice management. Then go for it and have fun! It’s been a great career for me, fulfilling and rewarding.”

Program outcomes vary according to each institution’s specific curriculum, and employment opportunities are not guaranteed.

Massage Therapy Schools