How To Become a Massage Therapist

By Jordan Fabel •  Updated: October 1, 2021  •  8 min read  •  Health
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If you’re considering a career in massage therapy, it’s important to understand how to become a massage therapist. There are several steps you will need to take. Then, with the right plan, you can become a massage therapist and enjoy your new career path.

Before you look into the process of becoming a massage therapist, you should better understand this type of career. As a massage therapist, you will likely work with athletes and many other types of people. You can specialize in the area of massage or a type of client. Let’s look at the process of becoming a massage therapist and your career opportunities.

How To Become a Massage Therapist

Necessary Steps to Become a Massage Therapist

1. Complete a Massage Therapy Program

If you want to become a massage therapist, the best path is a massage therapy program. This type of program will likely be found at a community college. You will take full-time classes, and you can complete the program in 16 to 24 months.

With a massage therapy program, you’ll learn all the necessary skills to work as a massage therapist. Some of the coursework will cover physiology, contraindications, limitations, anatomy, and pathology. In addition, you will gain the education necessary to understand and address your clients’ health issues. Massage therapy programs tend to provide both classroom work and practical training.

Make sure your program is accredited. The five accreditation organizations are:

Most of the top massage schools will be accredited by at least one of these, if not multiple.

2. Meet the State Practical Requirements

After completing a massage therapy program, you’ll need to meet the requirements of your state. Make sure you understand the necessary requirements before you start your massage therapy program. For example, you might be required to complete a certain number of hours of training. It may also be necessary to complete an internship at a massage school’s massage clinic.

3. Pass the License Exam

Once you’ve made sure you meet the practical state requirements, you will need to pass your licensing exams. Again, the exam you will need to take depends on your state.

In some cases, the license exam will be curated by the state. However, it’s common for states to use the MBLE (Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination). This exam is federally developed and provides a total of 100 questions. It’s accepted in 43 states across the country. Another popular exam used by some states is the BCETMB (Board Certification Exam in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork).

The exam questions will cover many topics you learned about in a massage therapy program. It can also be helpful to get an exam prep course to prepare for the actual written exam fully. Some of the subject areas covered on the exam include:

Some of the questions will be on technique, but the licensing exams will have more questions about theory and knowledge than anything else. It may also be necessary to take a practical exam and demonstrate different massage methods in some states.

4. Apply for Your State License

Once you’ve passed the licensure exam, you will need to apply for the state license. This means you will have to submit proof that you have met all the different requirements of the state. While all state processes are a bit different, the steps above are pretty common.

Before you apply for your state license, you may want to get a certification. This will require a certain number of hours and clinical work. With a certification, you might have an easier time getting your state license.

5. Gain Work Experience

After you get your license, you will want to start gaining work experience. This can be done by finding an entry-level position. Some massage schools will help with career placement, as well.

You can even go into business for yourself. Some massage therapists work from home or out of a facility. If you work for yourself, you can often rent a room in a massage facility.

The more work experience you gain, the better chance you have of landing a better position. It might take a few years of experience to work for the type of employer you prefer.

Common Duties of a Massage Therapist

While you might think you will complete massages all day long, massage therapists do more than provide therapy. You will take care of many duties, including:

These duties are rather common for massage therapists. However, if you decide to go into business for yourself, you may have other duties related to running a business.

Common Skills Necessary for a Massage Therapist

You will need physical strength and plenty of stamina to become a massage therapist. You will also need to gain a good understanding of physiology and anatomy. It’s necessary to have a good amount of empathy, as well. Other skills you should have include a calming attitude, along with an upbeat manner. Finally, since a massage is rather personal, it’s necessary to have great communication skills.

Types of Massage Specialties

It’s common for massage therapists to specialize in a few different types of massage. The most common types of massage include:

You don’t need to learn or specialize in all types of massage. Most massage therapists will choose two or three types of massage to provide for clients.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a Massage Therapist

How long will a massage session last?

When you become a massage therapist, you will likely work on clients for 15 minutes to an hour. Sessions can range from a simple 15-minute upper body massage to a full one-hour massage for the entire body. You will need the endurance and strength to handle multiple massage sessions every day as a massage therapist.

How long will it take to complete training to become a massage therapist?

It’s common to spend 300 to 1,000 hours in the classroom and performing practical training to become a massage therapist. The amount of time you’ll need to complete is based on the state and the license requirements.

Massage therapy programs are often 16 months to 24 months long. They are found at community colleges, state universities, and trade or vocational schools.

Is it possible for anybody to become a massage therapist?

Yes, as long as you fulfill the necessary requirements, anyone can become a massage therapist. However, it might be a challenging path with schooling covering many medical topics and massage techniques. In addition, it’s necessary to be prepared for the scientific elements of becoming a massage therapist.

How many hours will massage therapists work each week?

Some massage therapists work part-time, while others work full-time. It’s common for massage therapists to spend about 15 hours per week completing actual massage appointments. The rest of the workweek will be spent handling administrative tasks, client intake, and other tasks.

How much does a massage therapist earn?

The average salary of a massage therapist is about $43K per year. However, the amount you make depends on where you’re located, the type of work environment, and your experience. Salaries can range from about $21K to $80K.

How much will it cost to attend massage therapy school?

Most massage therapy certificate programs will range between $6K to $10K. It will depend on the school. This amount doesn’t include your massage table, candles, sheets, and other necessary supplies.

If you choose to complete an associate program, it will likely cost more. This will give you a two-year degree, however. Of course, you can also spend even more on a bachelor’s degree, but it’s not necessary to become a massage therapist.

Continued education is an integral part of being a massage therapist. Part of your continued education can be completed online, while some courses may be hands-on.

Do I need a degree to become a massage therapist?

No. A degree isn’t necessary. However, you will need post-secondary training, and you will need to obtain a license. It’s usually necessary to have a diploma to be a massage therapist.

Where do massage therapists commonly work?

Many massage therapists work for themselves, but many employers are looking for massage therapists, too. Spas, salons, resorts, hotels, hospitals, cruise ships, gyms, and many other facilities hire massage therapists.

It’s even possible to work for a professional sports organization or facility. In addition, some long-term care centers and other personal care service providers may also hire massage therapists.

If you want to become a massage therapist, you will need to follow these steps. It can be a very rewarding career for those looking to help others.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path.