To acquire a massage therapy certification, a massage therapist must accomplish several things. Acquiring the appropriate education is the first and most important step toward preparing for certification. The education aspect includes being eligible for admission to a massage school, attending classes, completing the required curriculum, and working hands-on with clients to fine tune and practice the skills learned through a certification program. Additionally, it is necessary to become licensed and engage in continuing education in order to practice massage therapy in most states in the U.S.
Eligibility requirements for most schools require that an applicant be at least 18 years of age. Most schools mandate that applicants must have acquired a high school education or earned a GED (general equivalency diploma). Some schools require that a student provide references that endorse their personal character and their work ethic. Other massage schools request that a student obtain some experience working around a massage therapy business as a prerequisite for admission.
Completing the classes included in a massage school’s curriculum is imperative in order to obtain massage therapy certification. Nearly all schools require attendance and passage of courses that provide instruction in anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, immunology, massage theory, massage technique, professional ethics, business practices, CPR, first aid, and pathology. Courses that educate students about alternative techniques and therapies such as stone massage, Swedish massage, hydrotherapy, heat and cold therapy, reflexology, biofeedback, acupuncture, and homeopathic medicines often help to complete the typical curriculum at many certificate-providing schools. Students are not only required to attend these classes and courses, but they are expected to pass them with an established passage rate often higher than 70 percent.
Additionally, many schools require that a student complete an internship or fulfill a predetermined number of hands-on practice hours in order to become certified through the program. Massage therapy certification guarantees to the public that a student is skilled and knowledgeable in the field of massage and similar therapies. A student may obtain an opportunity to intern at a massage therapy business or a healthcare facility that offers massage therapy to patients. There they will get hands-on experience in working with patients or clients, taking patients’ or clients’ health information, providing massage, keeping massage facilities clean and up to standards, and observing practical methods and application of other aspects of business. Other times, students will volunteer time in the massage business associated with the massage school for credit hours.
After becoming certified, a massage therapist must obtain a license to practice in most states in the U.S. Official high school transcripts and proof of a massage therapy certification are the first requirements that must be met. Several basic guidelines in addition to certification from an approved massage school or program exist for licensing.
Most states conduct background checks of prospective licensees and require a clean criminal history that does not include any convictions for drug-related or violent crimes. Many states require letters of reference, in addition to a completed and submitted application form. Another general requirement is passage of one of the national examinations. The national examinations are administered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodyworks (NCBTMB), National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM), or Massage and Bodyworks Licensing Examination (MBLEx).
Nearly all states require licensed and certified massage therapists to obtain continuing education credits in order to remain licensed to practice with their massage therapy certifications. Continuing education credits often exist in courses offered in CPR, first aid, professional ethics, business practices, alternative therapies, and refresher courses in massage theory and technique. Other courses that are often required include disease control and management, HIV control, hygiene, and other classes that instruct professionals to adhere to recent privacy and health laws in the state.