Masseuse: How to Become a Massage Therapist

Jan 30, 2018

Find out how to become a massage therapist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in massage therapy.

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  • 0:03 Massage Therapist Career Info
  • 1:12 Complete a Training Program
  • 1:55 Become Licensed or Certified
  • 2:36 Gain Employment
  • 2:53 Earn Voluntary Certification

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Massage Therapist Career Info

A massage therapist, or masseuse, is a health care professional who provides massages to patients who are undergoing physical therapy, suffering from health problems, or want to relieve stress. Massage therapists aim to reduce pain, heal injuries, and rejuvenate patients. Common duties include evaluating patients, explaining massage options, and providing guidance to help patients relax. Massage therapists may be employed in spas, fitness centers, or medical facilities. Work is often part-time, and hours can vary widely depending on clients' schedules. A therapist's work requires standing for long periods and making repetitive motions.

Degree Level High School diploma or equivalent
Training minimum of 500 hours of training in massage therapy
Licensure and Certification Most states require licensure or certification
Key Skills Excellent communication skills, physical strength and stamina, empathy, and understanding
Salary (2015)* $38,040 per year (median salary for all massage therapists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Online Job Postings (August 2015)

Complete a Training Program

Individuals interested in becoming massage therapists must complete formal training, which may be offered as certificate and diploma programs through community colleges and technical schools. A high school diploma, or the equivalent, is required to enter most training programs. Most massage therapist training programs can be completed in less than one year. Through a blended curriculum and on-the-job training, students acquire and apply their knowledge of massage techniques through hands-on training sessions. Course topics may include holistic health, medical massage, reflexology, and physical arts. Students may also learn various massage techniques, including Swedish massage, Thai, pre-natal, and deep tissue massage.

Become Licensed or Certified

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that state boards regulate massage licenses and requirements, and that individuals may need to pass either a state or other nationally accredited exam to become licensed. The Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) offers the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx). Prior to applying for licensure, applicants must first complete at least 500 hours of training. Individuals interested in taking the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) may benefit from visiting the Pearson VUE website to become accustomed to taking computer-based exams.

Gain Employment

Some training programs offer job placement for graduates. Massage therapists may find employment in spas, salons, fitness centers, medical facilities, and resorts. They may also choose to open their own massage business or work independently by traveling to client locations.

Earn Voluntary Certification

Massage therapists who want to improve their job prospects and demonstrate their expertise can pursue voluntary board certification from organizations like the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Qualifications include 750 hours of training, 250 hours of work experience, and passing scores on a certification exam.

State licenses must generally be renewed after completing the requisite hours of continuing education. The NCBTMB also requires massage therapists to renew their credentials once every two years by passing a background check, maintaining CPR certification, and earning 24 hours of continuing education units from approved course providers. Course topics may range from somatic psychology to ergonomics. Massage therapists must also show that they have worked for at least 100 hours over the past two years.

To recap, massage therapists are required to have state licensure in most states, and earning licensure typically requires completing some type of formal training program and passing a test.

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