Massage Therapist Degrees: What You’ll Study

Explore the ins- and-outs of earning a massage therapy degree.

What certification will I need?

woman giving client massage

Only one level of certification is needed for massage therapy. You become certified after passing the licensing exam required for massage therapists in your state. Prerequisites to take the exam are a high school degree and a minimum number of massage therapist training hours.

Depending on what state you live in, you'll take either the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCEMTB) or the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM).

Besides these two exams, you will also need to complete re-certification training every four years in order to keep practicing. In order to be re-certified, you can either retake the exam, or complete 48 hours of continuing education units and log 200 hours of massage sessions within that four-year period.

What will I learn in my courses?

In massage therapy courses, you'll receive the training you need to be a licensed massage therapist who can fulfill a range of client needs. If you plan to specialize in a particular type of massage (for instance, infant massage, stone therapy, sports massage, etc.) you will take specific courses to learn the appropriate techniques. Generally, a massage therapy program includes classes like:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Business and license procedure
  • Contraindications and limitations
  • Health values of massage
  • Hygiene
  • Pathology
  • Professional ethics
  • Self-care
  • Theory of massage

How long does it take to become a massage therapist?

The length of a massage therapy program depends on the number of hours you train. Legal minimum hours for obtaining a massage therapy license vary by state, and these minimums range from 330 to 1,000 hours. Depending on how your program is structured, you can obtain your license in a matter of weeks, or it might take you up to two years.

Always check with your state's health board to find out the number of hours you need to complete in order to become licensed.

Are online programs available?

Massage therapy is about as hands-on as it gets—literally. If you're interested in pursuing a massage therapy certificate through an online program, know that you will still need to log hours of practice and massage experience.

There are, however, web-based massage programs available that will give you some of the technical instruction and general information you need to get started. Concepts like massage basics, massage benefits and general guidelines can all be learned online and at your own pace.

How much will my massage therapy school cost?

Massage therapy training typically costs anywhere from $6 to $17 an hour, with the average being $9 or $10. Because of this cost variation, as well as the wide range of state requirements, your program costs depend largely on where you are. A common requirement for states with massage licensing criteria is the need for 500 to 600 hours of training. This comes out to a tuition range of $5,000 to $9,000 for your certificate.

*Cost of tuition only. Prices do not reflect other fees.

While some programs include the cost of a massage table in their tuition prices, not all do and you may need to spend approximately $500 for one.

Find out about massage therapy school financial aid.

Are there prerequisites?

The only prerequisite for a massage certificate is a high school diploma, but there are also some characteristics of massage therapists that are beneficial to have.

A good massage therapist is interested in holistic treatments and wants to provide the best in client care. Though a massage therapist is not necessarily a health care professional, your attitude should still be one of healing and promoting health for your clients, just like a nurse or doctor.

What accreditation is there for my program?

Earning your massage therapy certificate from an accredited massage school is like putting a stamp of approval on your training. Currently, there are five organizations that are federally-sanctioned to accredit massage schools. These accrediting boards are:

  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT)
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)

Attending a program that's been accredited by one of these organizations can help make you eligible for federal loans and grants eligibility.

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