Focusing on massage techniques and therapeutic exercise, certificate and associate's degree programs prepare students to practice in doctor's offices, hospitals, and pain management centers. Students enrolled in these programs learn about the physiology of the body, as well as the types of illnesses most likely to produce musculoskeletal pain. Not only do students in such programs learn the basic practices of medical massage therapy, but they also learn how to work on a medical healthcare team through clinical experiences and internships. To gain the licensure required to practice medical massage therapy, students must pass written and practical skills examinations upon completion of these programs. Students will need a high school education to enroll in these programs, with professional experience and education in massage therapy, as well, for an advanced certificate.
Medical Massage Therapy Certificate
Medical massage therapy certificate programs provide students with an understanding of how the manipulation of soft tissues can alleviate stress and treat the symptoms of some chronic illnesses. Students spend clinical hours or supervised internships learning how to apply the theories of medical massage therapy to actual patients. The education prerequisites for medical massage therapy programs vary between schools, with some requiring students to have some college education or even professional experience in massage therapy or the healing arts. Other programs are more entry-level and provide students with an introduction to massage before allowing them to concentrate on medical massage therapy. Courses included in a medical massage therapy certificate program are:
- Human anatomy and physiology
- Medical terminology
- Musculoskeletal anatomy and physiology
- Massage technique
- Advanced clinical massage
- Massage therapy clinical
Associate of Applied Science in Medical Massage Therapy
Community colleges and for-profit healing arts schools offer associate's degree programs in medical massage therapy. Much like certificate programs in the field, associate's degree programs prepare massage therapists to work in medical and clinical healthcare facilities. Students gain an understanding of the basics of patient care, record-keeping, and healthcare facility procedures and safety measures. The courses included within a medical massage certificate therapy program are typically divided between classroom lectures and practical courses, in which students learn both the theories and the techniques of the practice. Some examples include:
- Introduction to clinical massage
- Client assessment
- Medical terminology
- Therapeutic exercise
- Dysfunctional conditions
- Release techniques
Popular Career Options
Individuals who have graduated from either a certificate or an associate's degree program in medical massage therapy can go on to gain positions in several different types of clinical facilities where healthcare professionals manage and treat chronic pain. These include the following:
- Physical therapists' offices
- Pain management centers
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Chiropractors' offices
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), massage therapists earned a mean annual salary of $43,170 as of May 2015 (www.bls.gov). Those massage therapists who worked in doctor's offices earned $48,620 on average, and those working in the offices of other types of health practitioners earned an average of $47,060 in that same year, per the BLS. Job openings for massage therapists were expected to grow by 22% between 2014 and 2024.
All massage therapists must gain licensure, typically by either passing a state board exam or the national exam given by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Most programs in the field should provide students with the educational knowledge and practical training to pass a written and practical examination in the field.
Through associate's and certificate programs, students can learn about the medical applications of massage therapy, preparing them for work in a number of healthcare settings. Licensure will be required in order to practice.