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Becoming a Practitioner of Medical Massage Therapy

The steps to earning your medical massage therapist certificate

practitioner working on movement for woman patient frozen shoulder

A results-oriented therapy, medical massage works toward resolving specific conditions that a physician has diagnosed in a patient.

More a style than a set of techniques, medical massage therapy employs a variety of modalities and procedures to treat the particular areas of a patient’s body suffering from injury or pain. Working hand-in-hand with physicians, medical massage therapists aim to achieve the best possible health outcomes for the patient.

What You’ll Do

Medical massage therapists combine their medical massage training, experience and tuition to evaluate a patient’s medical condition and decide on a path for treatment. The outcome-based nature of the therapy means that medical massage therapists focus on the particular injury or source of pain and apply specific treatments to help relieve the patient’s condition.

Like other massage therapists, medical massage practitioners work in a variety of health care facilities, from clinics to physician’s offices to wellness centers. While they might meet with some patients just a few times, other patients may require several weeks or months of therapeutic sessions to reach prescribed health goals.

Training and Education

What You’ll Study in Medical Massage School

Programs for medical massage therapy training will vary somewhat from school to school. In general, though, you can expect course work for medical massage training to include the following:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Clinical massage therapy principles and modalities
  • Kinesiology
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Pathology
  • Professional ethics
  • Business practices for medical massage therapists
  • Clinical practicum

Average Length of Study

Depending on the program and your current level as a massage therapist, medical massage therapy training can involve 300 to 800 hours of combined classroom work and hands-on practice, which usually takes 12 to 18 months to complete. Some massage schools offer evening and weekend medical massage training classes to provide greater flexibility for working students and students with families.

Average Tuition

Tuition for medical massage therapy training programs ranges from $1,500 to $10,000. Most schools offer scholarships and financial aid to qualified applicants, as well as payment plans to help spread the cost over several months.

Medical Massage Therapy Certification

A majority of states require a license to practice as a massage therapist. The American Medical Massage Association (AMMA) offers a national certification exam to medical massage therapists who meet established criteria, which include completing at least 600 hours of supervised instruction at an accredited massage therapy school and passing a national certification exam. 

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ current Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of massage therapists in general will grow at a faster than average rate—20% through 2031. The ongoing wellness and alternative medicine trend to combine allopathic and natural health treatments to achieve overall wellness, along with the public’s interest in natural healing alternatives, will be the chief source of growth for medical massage therapy jobs in the coming decade.

Medical Massage Therapist Salary

Research your state’s median salary for massage therapists, or compare national information here:

Massage Therapists

National data

Median Salary: $46,910

Projected job growth: 20%

10th Percentile: $24,450

25th Percentile: $34,770

75th Percentile: $60,510

90th Percentile: $77,600

Projected job growth: 20%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alabama $28,810 $17,050 $48,730
Alaska $121,120 $30,330 $154,310
Arizona $43,150 $29,160 $61,890
Arkansas $37,970 $23,440 $60,400
California $47,590 $29,270 $92,590
Colorado $47,900 $29,670 $62,600
Connecticut $53,060 $26,100 $113,830
Delaware $43,600 $24,040 $78,690
District of Columbia $47,230 $31,340 $61,250
Florida $38,600 $23,360 $73,190
Georgia $38,050 $18,050 $62,650
Hawaii $49,080 $23,260 $96,520
Idaho $47,980 $24,470 $128,110
Illinois $49,130 $23,670 $79,010
Indiana $47,960 $22,680 $80,880
Iowa $46,440 $24,580 $60,490
Kansas $39,370 $16,860 $66,060
Kentucky $48,700 $28,810 $78,560
Louisiana $29,550 $17,440 $78,990
Maine $39,200 $30,150 $77,450
Maryland $46,940 $24,440 $122,960
Massachusetts $58,190 $37,070 $97,240
Michigan $59,040 $26,040 $97,410
Minnesota $46,910 $29,130 $73,290
Mississippi $43,460 $28,310 $51,520
Missouri $36,610 $21,420 $60,450
Montana $59,380 $22,680 $82,970
Nebraska $46,640 $23,110 $79,010
Nevada $30,700 $17,720 $59,380
New Hampshire $47,980 $23,250 $77,440
New Jersey $44,870 $29,110 $61,670
New Mexico $38,330 $28,190 $79,010
New York $47,460 $31,930 $75,940
North Carolina $47,120 $22,740 $68,920
North Dakota $60,550 $30,380 $87,620
Ohio $46,490 $29,380 $76,190
Oklahoma $47,550 $26,160 $59,380
Oregon $70,300 $30,350 $94,020
Pennsylvania $46,410 $25,890 $71,500
Rhode Island $30,350 $24,540 $30,350
South Carolina $35,880 $17,440 $55,800
South Dakota $30,780 $23,340 $49,300
Tennessee $45,400 $18,850 $60,400
Texas $42,860 $22,330 $62,680
Utah $45,910 $18,020 $65,640
Vermont $47,850 $29,650 $61,340
Virginia $46,460 $21,190 $76,250
Washington $65,610 $31,150 $88,610
West Virginia $46,640 $23,340 $75,450
Wisconsin $39,300 $17,470 $61,450
Wyoming $47,820 $29,010 $61,690

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Is Medical Massage Therapy Right for You?

The path to becoming a medical massage therapist requires a high level of collaboration when it comes to helping patients achieve wellness goals and comfort working one-on-one with patients in a quiet environment. Caring, communication and understanding basic business concepts to help you build your medical massage therapy practice are also essential to the job.

If you are interested in a role as a medical massage therapist, take a closer look at medical massage training. Then choose the program that meets your personal and professional needs.

Sources: American Health Source, American Medical Massage Association, Medical Massage Practitioners of America, The Soma Institute