Massage Practitioner Education Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a massage practitioner. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about schooling, job duties and licensure to find out if this is the career for you.

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Massage practitioners help patients relax and relieve muscle stress. They may specialize in one or more massage techniques, such as Swedish, sports, or deep tissue massage, and tailor their technique to a client's needs. There are a number of training programs, including those that result in a certificate, diploma, or associate's degree, that can prepare students for licensure and/or certification.

Essential Information

Massage practitioners manipulate soft tissue muscles to reduce pain, rehabilitate injuries, reduce stress and promote overall health. They tailor various massage techniques to meet a client's particular needs and physical condition; special clients may include pregnant women, athletes, infants and the elderly. Individuals interested in this career usually enroll in a diploma, certificate or associate's degree program in massage therapy, which provides some practical experience performing massages. Program graduates usually need to take an examination to obtain state licensure, though the examinations accepted vary by state.

Required Education Diploma, certificate or associate's degree in massage therapy
Other Requirements State licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 22%
Median Salary (2015)* $38,040 annually

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Education Requirements for Massage Practitioners

Before treating clients, most massage practitioners complete a formal massage education program. A high school diploma or GED is generally required for admissions into a massage practitioner program. Community colleges, vocational schools and continuing education programs offer massage curriculum that can be completed within a few months, depending on if the student attends class on a part-time or full-time basis. Program requirements include a minimum of 500 hours of study. Programs blend coursework and practical massage therapy experience.

A typical massage therapy education program includes courses such as anatomy and physiology, biology, body mechanics, kinesiology, ethics and business practices. Students receive hands-on training and may specialize in massage techniques such as deep tissue, Swedish, sports, reflexology, neuromuscular, Shiatsu, Thai, seated, prenatal and acupressure. Massage practitioner programs may culminate in a Certificate of Achievement in Massage Therapy, Certificate of Proficiency in Massage Therapy Technician, Massage Therapy Diploma, Associate of Applied Science in Massage Therapy or an Associate of Occupational Studies in Massage Therapy.

Licensure

After obtaining a formal massage practitioner education, therapists may choose to take the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB), which is given by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. In many cases, passing the exam provides a national credential that makes a massage practitioner eligible for employment; however, requirements vary by state. Another license recognized in many states is the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards. It's prudent for potential massage therapy practitioners to research the requirements of the state in which they plan to work. In addition, some state guidelines require massage therapists to earn continuing education credits to maintain licensure.

Massage practitioners are usually licensed by the state. Requirements for licensure may include completion of an accredited training program consisting of both classroom instruction and practical experience and passing a certification exam. The employment outlook for massage practitioners is far above the job market as a whole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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