Are you thinking about adding a massage license to your list of qualifications? Those who want to train in the massage field can choose between a traditional college or schooling with an academic focus or a school that specializes in massage training. Both options have their advantages and drawbacks. Which one is right for you depends on your timeframe, current educational goals, and previous training and experience.
What Are the Legal Requirements for Massage Training Programs?
Laws governing massage training and licensing vary by state. Currently, forty-five states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy activities. General requirements include:
- Between 300 and 1000 hours of instruction
- Passing grade on an official exam: MBLEx
- Periodic license renewal or continuing education credits
- Criminal background check
Some states require active liability insurance prior to receiving your license. There are often other requirements as well, such as CPR certification and blood tests proving you are not a carrier of certain contagious diseases.
Read the state and local requirements for your area thoroughly, and understand them before you start your school search. That way, you won’t waste time investigating programs that don’t fit your specific needs.
What Is Taught in a Massage Therapy Program?
Like licensing requirements, the mandatory educational content for massage training programs also varies by state. Most programs will include the following elements.
- Instruction in anatomy, physiology, pathology, kinesiology, and nutrition
- Hands-on training, with a knowledgeable teacher present, in a classroom setting
- How to assess clients’ needs and determine proper treatment
- Information on ethical concerns, communication skills, and legal issues
- Business management and accounting
If you are studying for a specialty certification, like prenatal or myofascial release therapies, additional courses will be necessary.
College Courses vs Massage School
Whether you choose to pursue an Associates of Applied Science degree from a traditional college or a Certificate of Completion from a vocational school, the information and guidance you receive will be similar. There are other major differences that can help you decide which path to take.
- Nearly half of students pursuing an associate’s degree take 4 years to complete their studies. Massage training programs can usually be completed in less than a year.
- The average degree seeker will pay $7,020 in tuition and fees. Add in the cost of books and other supplies, and that number can easily reach $10,000 or more. The cost of massage programs can range from $6 to $17 per hour, depending on factors like location, special offerings, and clock hours. That means you pay between $3,000 and $8,500 for a 500-hour course.
- Many massage schools offer online or self-paced instruction. This allows for a more flexibility when compared to scheduled lectures and labs.
- Practicing professionals who already have a degree don’t need to repeat general education courses that are irrelevant to their current goals.
Which One Is Right for You?
Your choice depends on your goals. Are you planning to use massage therapy as a starting point for a career in specialized therapies? In this situation, college might be the right path for you. Academic institutions offer more opportunities for experimentation and inspiring new experiences.
If you are an established therapy professional who wants to offer clients a safe, natural, and effective addition to existing methods that promotes healing and reduces stress, a massage school program is your best choice. You can get the knowledge you need more quickly, and with a smaller investment of time and money.
Succeeding in massage school requires more than just a passion for the field. Such an education program requires the learning of diverse hands-on techniques and the study of human anatomy, physiology, and otherwise. Through the fusion of both and professional development, you’ll learn how to use specific techniques and theories to address individual needs. Enrolling in a massage school thus means cultivating your own therapeutic approach through such diverse training.Through this process, you will not only need a passion for relieving others’ pain, but also some key supplies to start your career in this growing industry.
Tables & Tools
The foundation for any massage practice is a suitable table, chair, or mat, whether stationary or portable. Accessories help ensure client comfort, from body cushion systems to face cradle covers that add extra protection. Specialized tools will vary according to one’s specialization in massage school and include the following.
- A range of manual massage tools (T-Bars, Thumbsaver, etc) for specific purposes, from Trigger Points to pressure relief.
- Massage Stones or Cryocups for hot and cold therapies.
- Thumpers, which are manual or electric tools of eight massage spheres, that provide hand-held stimulation of pressure points.
- Hot and cold packs, as well as electrical warming units, for specific therapies.
- Exercisers or small balls for improving finger, hand, and forearm strength.
- Bolsters, pillows, or wedges for joint support and client comfort.
Other potential tools include accessories for one’s table, chair, or mat like cotton, fleece, or disposable sheets, covers, or padding, and towels and cleaning products.
Oils & Lotions
Many supplies are essential for the therapeutic side of massage school, especially in ensuring a relaxing sensory experience for clients. Understand these different therapeutic tools will help you determine which are necessary for your specialization.
- Topical pain relievers, balms, and analgesics help relieve muscular or joint pain.
- Essential oils come from plants, while blends combine fragrances for various purposes.
- Natural herbs fulfill medicinal needs through infusion or distillation with oils.
- Skin shields create invisible barriers to help address specific skin conditions.
- Creams and lotions address friction and tension while soothing and moisturizing the skin.
Through various courses at massage school, you’ll learn which of these diverse tools are best suited to your particular field and adapting to clients’ specific needs therein.
Music & Media
Massage school will add various multimedia to your therapeutic toolbox, but you can start with several on hand. Music is the most obvious massage tool in its ability to ensure a soothing therapy experience, but instructional and other books and videos will be important parts of your resource library. Charts, too, will be essential in providing greater understanding of the human body and how massage provides relief. Anatomy, trigger point, and reflexology charts will be useful in massage school and beyond as you learn about and learn to explain pain and therapy, while posters, skeletons, and decoders will similarly support your practice. Lastly, developing concise and clear marketing media will be essential to your long-term professional development – from flyers for your business to business cards and your resume.
With the right tools, you can ensure that your time at massage school starts off right. As you learn various techniques, from pressure point stimulation to more elaborate Swedish massage, you’ll expand the tools and wisdom at your disposal. Through the combination of theory, hands-on experience, and professional development, you’ll learn to address individual therapeutic needs and understand how human bodies move, hurt, and heal. Gathering some of these essential tools to start will provide the strong foundation you will need for succeeding in massage school.
You want to lead a deliberate life. That’s part of what led to your decision to join the massage community which includes therapists, healers, herbalists and acupuncturists. Creating a balance between work, school and extracurricular activities is one part of the exciting journey you’re undertaking when choosing massage school. Choosing massage school means taking time up front to research all certification options. This research is perhaps the most important first step down the rewarding career path.
Choosing Massage School: Picking the Right Program
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is what type of practice you would like to establish. Consider the following questions when choosing massage school:
- Is your goal to work with athletes in therapeutic massage or would you like to focus on just providing comfort and relaxation to your clients?
- Would you like to open a solo practice or are you planning on joining a team of providers?
- What technique most interests you? Swedish? Reiki? Deep Tissue?
Look at your options when it comes to choosing massage school. Does the program meet state licensing requirements? Is the school accredited? What type of degree or certification will you receive?
How many hours of training will it take? What are the corresponding costs per credit hour. Can the school assist you with financial aid if you need it?
How large are the classes and do they work with your schedule? Small class size means a higher teacher to student ratio, allowing for individual attention. Are there flexible online classes in addition to on-site training? Does the school have multiple locations, which could allow scheduling flexibility in the future.
Choosing Massage School: Community Matters
Just as important as class size is the internal and external community that supports your studies. Massage school can be intense as the best clinical curriculum includes:
- Anatomy and physiology
- A gross anatomy lab including cadaver dissection
- Massage theory and practice
- Business management
- First aid and CPR
This is a medically-based class load that could include up to a year of intensive study. Choosing massage school within a community of like-minded individuals that support your decision to learn these skills is very important. A community focused on holistic healing, organic and natural foods will likely be a positive fit for your study and practice. Having similarly focused healers within your classes will also provide you with the understanding and support you will need to excel in your studies.
When choosing massage school, take time to visit each potential school, paying particular attention to classrooms, class sizes and cleanliness. What is the neighborhood like? Ask if you can sit in and monitor a class to get a feel for the level of professionalism. Do they have alumni that you could speak with to get a sense of the real life job outlook?
Finally, will the school help with externships or job placement as part of the package? Of course the cost is a consideration for most students. But if the school has a high graduation rate and the majority of students pass the massage license testing for your state, coupled with a high rate of job placement, this could easily offset the cost factor of massage school.
Choosing Massage School: Ensuring Your Success
Massage certification will not only positively impact your life, but the also the human beings you’re seeking to help. Taking the time to make a careful decision about choosing massage school will go a long way toward ensuring your success.