Medical massage is being prescribed by physicians more often these days, and certificate programs provide training for massage therapists looking to expand their careers by providing targeted therapy to patients. Medical or therapeutic massage programs are not typically online because of the hands-on nature of the work; however, some career schools and community colleges may provide distance learning options.
Institutions offering certificate programs in this field may require certain prerequisite or general education coursework. While the massage courses may be held on campus, students could be able to take some of these general education classes online. Other schools offer massage therapy coursework totally online and allow distance learners to complete the hands-on component on-site at a designated time. Depending on the program, students could earn their certificate in less than six months or up to two years.
Online medical massage certification programs are typically designed for licensed massage therapists who wish to gain additional credentials and expand their practices. Online classes provide virtual clinical experiences with instruction in assessing and treating different musculoskeletal issues and dysfunctional tissues. Students are also trained in postural issues that aggravate conditions and cause pain.
Medical massage science therapy techniques are demonstrated in online programs, and students can use this knowledge to practice and accumulate the hours of required experience through additional in-person training. Online medical massage programs may also include classes in business topics and medical billing procedures. Students can expect to study the following topics in an online program:
- Human anatomy
- Movement and support
- Sports massage
- Legal and ethical issues
- Therapeutic massage practices
Students who take online courses in medical or therapeutic massage typically work in a content management system hosted by their schools. There they can see lectures, learning aids and assignments in addition to having a place to interact with classmates or instructors. Along with textbooks and instructional guides, DVDs may be required to give distance learners the chance to see techniques in action.
States vary in their requirements for certifying massage therapists; however, all states require several hundreds of combined hours of instruction and hands-on experience, which needs to be completed in addition to online classes. Many states also require that massage therapists pass the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork's exam. Students are responsible for completing and documenting their hours of experience with school oversight prior to certification.
Many graduates of medical massage certificate programs use their online training in careers as freelance medical massage therapists. Physical therapist assistants also pursue online massage certification programs in order to incorporate medical massage science into their therapies. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that massage therapists earned a mean salary of $43,170 per year (www.bls.gov). Employment of massage therapists is expected to increase at the much faster-than-average rate of 22% in 2014-2024, according to the BLS.
Medical or therapeutic massage therapy programs can be found with fully online coursework, though students should expect to complete a hands-on practicum on-site to finish their training. These programs are usually intended as additional professional training for licensed massage therapists, and graduates might consider pursuing certification.