Overview of Online Massage Therapy Certification Programs
Students who are interested in becoming a massage therapist can pursue a massage therapy training program that results in a diploma or certificate in the field. Students in these programs typically need to check their state's requirements to become a massage therapist, but some of these programs are designed to prepare students for state licensing exams. Other programs may also help prepare students for the Massage and Body Work Licensing Examination (MBLEx) that is offered through the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).
Due to the hands-on nature of the field, most of these programs are available in a hybrid format with some on-campus clinical training, but there is at least one program that is 100% online with an enhanced option that includes hands-on training. Students wishing to take the MBLEx would need to complete the enhanced option with clinical training. Some of these hybrid certificate programs in massage therapy can be completed in as few as 25 weeks.
Requirements for Online Massage Therapy Certificates
Online massage therapy training programs usually include coursework that provides students with an overview of anatomy, kinesiology, ethics, and standards of practice, in conjunction with in-person clinical training applying massage techniques to clients. Overall, students study the different massage techniques used to help their clients relieve stress and/or pain from injuries and live a healthy life.
Some massage therapy training programs may be broken up into units with multiple lessons in each unit, while others may range from about 29 to 31 credits. Hybrid massage therapy programs are meant to provide students with flexible schedule options, as students balance online coursework with in-person clinical training, which may also be available in the evenings. These clinical hours are supervised by instructors and may be conducted in a school's clinic. Often, the clinic is open to the public so students gain real-world experience working with clients.
Anatomy and Physiology
Students generally take one or more courses that explore the various organ systems of the human body. Some of these courses may have a lab component, and students generally learn terminology, structures, and functions of the nervous, muscular, skeletal, circulatory, and other systems. Some of these courses may specifically examine details of the muscular system to help with massage techniques, such as fiber arrangements, stretch receptors, and muscle movements.
Courses in kinesiology are designed to help students further understand how skeletal muscles move and put a name to different types of movement. This sets the foundation for the ergonomics and biomechanics of massage therapy and what skills are needed for each kind of muscle.
Students generally take multiple courses in massage techniques, with some courses providing a general overview of techniques with the exploration of additional subjects, such as ethics, while other courses may examine specific kinds of massages, such as integrative or deep tissue massage. In general, these courses help train students in massage theories, massage strokes and variations, and client protocol.
Career Outcomes with a Certificate in Massage Therapy
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), massage therapists usually need to complete a postsecondary education program that may range from 500 to 1,000 hours of study and experience. However, requirements vary greatly by state and students commonly need to have a license or certification to practice massage therapy. Students usually need to pass the MBLEx or a state exam to earn the required license or certification.
As of 2019, the BLS reported that massage therapists made a median annual salary of $42,820. The BLS also reported that from 2018 to 2028, massage therapists had a job outlook of 22%. This outlook is much faster than average and may be due in part to the growing acceptance of using massage therapy to treat pain and work toward overall well-being.
There are a few hybrid massage therapy training programs available that include some on-campus clinical work. These programs can be completed in less than a year and generally help prepare students for licensure in the field.