How to Become a Massage Therapist

Many individuals are finding that a career as a massage therapist can be quite lucrative, stable, and fulfilling. However, for many, there are several questions regarding how to become a massage therapist. It’s really quite simple. However, there are several steps to consider, such as acquiring the necessary education, getting licensed, and continuing education requirements for license renewal.

Obtaining the required education is the first step to becoming a massage therapist. Many schools and institutions across the United States offer degree and certificate programs in massage therapy. However, not all of these schools are accredited or endorsed by their state’s governing and licensing bodies. Nearly every state in the U.S. has a board, commission, or committee that oversees the issuance of massage therapy licenses. This entity determines which schools within the state meet their guidelines for curriculum and hands-on training. It’s best to get an education from a board-approved school.

Each of these schools must offer a curriculum that is acceptable to most states for licensing purposes. Most programs offer a program that consists of at least 500 credit hours and requires a minimum of six months to complete. The course structure includes classes in physiology and anatomy, kinesiology, immunology, massage theory and technique, professional ethics, CPR, first aid, and other alternative therapies such as hydrotherapy, stone massage, and reflexology. Some schools offer classes that help to prepare students to specialize in a particular field of massage, such as prenatal, pediatric, or sports massage.

Another education component includes hands-on experience through credit hours earned on campus through volunteer time giving massages or through an internship at a therapeutic massage business. This demonstrates application of the knowledge learned through coursework and is an important step toward becoming a massage therapist.

After completing educational requirements, it’s necessary to become a licensed in order to be a massage therapist in most states. The licensing procedure consists of two elements:

  • Eligibility:
    • Must be at least 18 years of age
    • Must be able to provide official transcripts of completion of a degree or certificate program in massage therapy that included at least 500 hours of instruction from a state-approved school in an approved combination of studies.
    • Must be able to pass a background check with no convictions of violent crimes, drug-related offenses, or other crimes that indicate moral deficiencies
    • Must be able to pass a national and/or state massage therapy examination
  • Application:
    • Must provide a photo.
    • Must submit a competed application form.
    • Must submit letters of reference endorsing the applicant, both from personal and professional aspects.
    • Some cities require that massage therapists register with the municipal health office, too.

Once licensed, massage therapists must remember that an important element of how to become a massage therapist includes how to stay a massage therapist. All licensed massage therapists are required to complete continuing education in order to retain their licenses. Many massage therapists take classes in professional ethics, new massage techniques, business practices, and updated healthcare laws. Some massage therapists attend conferences or seminars in order to gain continuing education credits. Often classes in CPR and first aid are required, too, in which case massage therapists must maintain certification in both of these life-saving skills in order to practice massage therapy.

Renewing one’s license typically isn’t difficult, if continuing education credits have been acquired. However, there are some additional steps that are also required by most states. A renewal application must be filed, along with documentation and official transcripts of continuing education credits. A recent photo must be submitted, along with proof of employment. All renewal applications are reviewed against any past complaints and reports before being approved by the state.


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by Enoch Morrison | Last Updated: January 9, 2019