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How to Become a Masseuse: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn how to become a massage therapist. Research the job description and education and licensing requirements, and find out how to start a career in massage therapy.

Should I Become a Massage Therapist?

The term 'masseuse' is used to describe a female who gives massages, while 'masseur' is the equivalent term for a male in this profession. Massage therapist is a common title used to describe both women and men who perform massage therapy. These professionals help relax and soothe client ailments by manipulating their soft tissues. The environments in which massage therapists work vary and can include health or chiropractic clinics, spas, vacation resorts and fitness centers. Many massage therapists are self-employed. They spend most of their shifts standing and performing repetitive tasks, which may be hard on their hands and wrists. Many of these workers only find part time employment.

Career Requirements

Education Level Postsecondary certificate or diploma program
Training 500 to 1,000 hours of study and hands-on training
Licensure and Certification Licensing or certification required in most states
Key Skills Communication and decision-making skills, ability to demonstrate empathy, good physical stamina, strength and dexterity
Salary $37,180 per year (2014 median salary for all massage therapists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, State massage therapy boards

Step 1: Earn a Certificate or Diploma in Massage Therapy

Students should choose a program that's recognized by their state's licensing board. These programs often involve at least 500 hours of academic and clinical work. Coursework typically includes anatomy and physiology, kinesiology fundamentals, pathology and professional ethics. Prospective massage therapists who plan to be self-employed may want to choose a training program that includes coursework in business finances, marketing and management. Classroom coursework is complemented by hands-on training in clinical labs.

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Step 2: Take an Approved National Examination in Massage Therapy

Exams commonly accepted for state licensure include the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the Board Certification Exam in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (BCETMB) offered through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Once a student has completed an approved massage therapy program, he or she can apply to take either of these exams.

Step 3: Apply for State Licensure

After graduation from an accredited massage therapy program and earning a passing score on a national examination, graduates can apply for licensure. Some states require a candidate to have a specified amount of liability insurance before he or she can be granted licensure. Professionals should also check with their state for any additional regulations, such as how the license must be displayed at the therapist's place of work.

Step 4: Meet Continuing Education Requirements

To keep certification and licensure valid, professionals need to meet continuing education requirements. Candidates who have taken the BCETMB certification exam will need to complete a recertification process that includes showing evidence of 24 continuing education credits and 100 hours of work experience. Many states also require professionals to submit evidence of continuing education to maintain licensure. Specific coursework requirements and the frequency with which they must be documented vary by state.


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