Associate's degree programs in massage therapy are available online, although hybrid programs that require hands-on clinical practice on campus or at a location convenient to the student are more common. Since massage therapists are required to be licensed in most states, check on the educational requirements for massage therapist licensing or professional certification in your state before choosing an educational program. Applicants must submit to a criminal background check and obtain a state medical board preliminary educational approval certificate.
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Massage Therapy Associate's Degree
Only a portion of massage therapy associate's degree programs can be completed online. Some schools only offer general education classes via distance education. Students learn skills in massage and study anatomy, physiology and pathology related to the discipline. Before consideration for admission into the program, applicants must complete prerequisite courses with a minimum grade or grade point average (GPA), and science and math courses must have been completed within seven years and repeated a maximum of once.
Other typical prerequisites include a criminal background check, a high school diploma or equivalent, a state medical board preliminary educational approval certificate, attendance at an orientation session and an interview with the program manager. Upon completion, students are awarded an Associate of Applied or Occupational Science Degree and are eligible to sit for the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork examination.
Program Information and Requirements
Depending on the program's format, hybrid programs can require two years to complete, consisting of five full-time semesters or 76 weeks and 1270 hours of full-time attendance. Part-time schedules are also available. Students complete general education courses online with some schools scheduling just one course every four weeks. Others focus on massage therapy courses for approximately half of the week and general education the other half. Typically, the first year of studies introduces basics, and the second year focuses on more advanced techniques, lectures, labs and professional experience.
Students need a computer, Internet access and a browser that supports the institution's content delivery system. In addition, students should have a word processing program to write up assignments and labs. A reliable e-mail address that allows one to send and receive attachments is an asset.
Massage Therapy Courses
The online courses in these programs vary by school, but some of the general education classes might include introductory accounting, marketing, business, English, psychology, biology and communication subjects. Core coursework in massage therapy concentrates on history, fundamentals and methodologies. Some common courses are listed below.
The human body and its systems are the focus of this class. Structure, functions, diseases and the concept of homeostasis are topics of exploration. A lab requirement may be included in the course.
This class focuses on the history of massage methodologies and chair techniques. The curriculum investigates massage therapy definitions, theories, principles, effects, methods, indications and modalities. Students also learn about laws and legislation, code of ethics, licensing credentials, boundaries and scope of practice related to massotherapy.
Anatomy and Physiology
Students learn the fundamental concepts of human anatomy and physiology related to massage therapy and exercise. Body systems are explored, including nervous, chemical, skeletal, muscular, cellular and integumentary.
Massage therapists earned a median hourly wage of $18.29 as of May 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The demand for massage therapists is expected to increase by 22%, much faster than the average for all occupations, between 2014 and 2024, due to demand in both young and aging populations (www.bls.gov).
Continuing Education Information
Many states require licensure for practice in massage therapy, through either state exams or nationally recognized organizations. The Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) and the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMG) offer exams that may qualify for state licensure.
Massage therapists may also be required to complete continuing education units (CEUs) for license renewal. These can be completed through various accredited organizations, and some CEUs are available through online or home study courses. Students should check their state's CEU requirements for maintenance of licensure.
Associate's degree programs in massage therapy can be found entirely online or in hybrid formats that include hands-on training or internships. Graduates of these programs are prepared to work as massage therapists, but they usually must satisfy licensure requirements by passing an examination.