Associate of Therapeutic Massage: Degree Overview

Students earning their associate's degrees in therapeutic massage learn about anatomy and physiology, massage methods and pathology. At many schools, students also learn about holistic health and wellness.

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Essential Information

A 2-year associate's degree in therapeutic massage can qualify students to work as therapists in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, sports facilities, yoga institutions, rehabilitation centers and nursing homes.

Students must have a high school diploma before beginning an associate's program.


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Associate's Degree in Therapeutic Massage

Students in an associate's degree program can learn the technical skills to relieve pain and stress as well as relax muscles using a variety of massage techniques, called modalities. Many programs include internships or other forms of hands-on training. Since over 50% of massage therapists are self-employed, they may also learn skills for running their own massage businesses. Possible course requirements include:

  • Musculoskeletal system
  • Upper and lower body massage techniques
  • Massage methods for chronic diseases
  • Medical terminology
  • Interpersonal psychology
  • Medical and business ethics

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected much faster-than-average job growth for massage therapists as massage continues to gain mainstream acceptance and recognition. The establishment of state licensing laws verifies the credibility of this practice and also contributes to job growth. Employment in the therapeutic massage industry was predicted to grow by 22% in the period 2014-2024. The median annual wage for massage therapists was $38,040 in 2015, according to the BLS. The BLS also reported that some income for massage therapists came in the form of tips (www.bls.gov).

Certification, Licensing Requirements and Continuing Education Information

Licensing requirements do not exist in all states and may vary among states. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM) and the similar National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB); passing the NCETMB may be sufficient for licensure in certain states. Certification generally requires 500 hours of coursework, a background check and completion of an examination (www.ncbtmb.org).

Additionally, the NCBTMB administers the National Examination for State Licensing (NESL). The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards is another option for those seeking licensure (www.fsmtb.org). Maintaining licensed status may require continuing education classes. Additionally, students who wish to expand their repertoires may study other modalities, like reflexology or acupressure.

An associate's degree in therapeutic massage prepares students for entry-level positions in the field. In addition to preparing students for providing massage therapy services, it also offers classes related to running a business.

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