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Massage Therapy Education: Become a Massage Therapist

Updated on August 5, 2011

What is massage therapy?

Massage is the manipulation of soft tissue for healing or relaxation treatment. When you attend a massage therapy college, you'll learn the proper way to massage muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin, and joint. Sometimes inner gastrointestinal organs are massaged, too. People requiring massage therapy do so to relieve pain, reduce anxiety, help minimize depression, and improve physical conditions such as heart rate and blood pressure.

What is the outlook for massage therapist?

Considering that massage therapy is in the health care industry, the future is looking good because Congress and President Obama are passing laws that will expand healthcare coverage in America.

Additionally, many healthcare professionals and patients already believe in the preventive benefits of massage therapy. Still, massage therapists can also find employment in the recreational industry working for spas, luxury hotels, and resorts. Not to mention that many licensed massage therapists teach in your local massage therapy college. So the choices to find employment are improving.

A Healing Massage Therapy
A Healing Massage Therapy

How to become a massage therapist?

To be a practicing massage therapist, most states require a formal training and a national certification (licensed massage therapist). This means you have to

  • complete 500 hours of formal instructions from a massage therapy college
  • pass a standardized test given by the massage therapy board called NCBTMB (National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork)

There are two types of national massage therapy exam given out by the NCBTMB -- the NCETM (National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage) and the NCETMB (National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork).

The exams cover similar areas of knowledge. The difference is that the NCETMB includes questions about bodywork assessment and application. Which national massage therapy exam you have to take depends on the licensing requirements of the state you intend to practice.

What to look for in a massage therapy college?

The two national massage therapy exams cover the following areas:

  • General knowledge of body systems
  • Detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology
  • Pathology
  • Therapeutic assessment
  • Therapeutic application
  • Professional standards, ethics, business and legal practices

Also, the NCBTMB prescribes a minimum of 500 hours with the following:

  • 125 hours of body systems (anatomy, physiology and kinesiology)
  • 200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, theory and application
  • 40 hours of pathology
  • 10 hours of business and ethics (minimum of 6 hours in ethics)
  • 125 hours of additional instruction in an area or related field that theoretically completes the massage program of study

The school you select should be able to prepare you for the exam and meet the minimum requirements of the NCBTMB. There are many schools across the US. Some you may already heard of during TV commercials. For example,

  • UEI College in California with campuses in Chula Vista, El Monte, Huntington Park, Ontario, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Van Nuys.
  • Omega Institute with a campus in Pennsauken, New Jersey
  • Advanced Career Training (ACT) with campuses in Jacksonville, Florida and Morrow, Georgia.
  • Pura Vida College of Massage Therapy, Cedar City, Utah

How much is an average massage therapist salary?

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2008, the national average for a massage therapist salary was $19.16 per hour. Yearly income average was $39,850.

The top 10% massage therapist salary was $33.47 hourly or $69,620per year!

The Personal Care Services Industry hired the most massage therapists. Income on the average was $17.90 per hour or $37,230 per year.

The section of the industry that paid the highest massage therapy salary was the Private Schools and Other Instructions.  This industry paid an average of $35.11 hourly or $73,020 yearly.  This is not surprising since many career seekers are looking to the health care industry for their long term future.

The top 5 states paying the highest for massage therapist salary were Alaska (average income $38.70/hr), Connecticut (average income $27.70/hr), Washington (avg $26.67/hr), Oregon (avg $25.86/hr), and New York (avg $24.64/hr).


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