Becoming a massage therapist is not an easy task. The profession requires years of training, at least 500-1000 hours of supervised clinical work, and passing the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork. If you are considering becoming a massage therapist, these 5 steps should help to guide you through this process!
How To Become a Massage Therapist?
This guide will walk you through everything that it takes to become certified as a massage therapist. It includes information about what education requirements are needed to be eligible for the certification exam, how long it will take before you can apply for certification, and what considerations need to be made before taking on your new career.
#1 Obtain Massage Therapy Training
There are many different types of certification available to massage therapists. The profession does not require degree level education, but the majority of states do have licensing requirements for entry-level employment in a spa, clinic, or resort. However, there are many different types of training available that can be used to obtain state licensure and qualify for entry-level employment.
In order to prepare for a career as a massage therapist, you will need at least 500 hours of training. Many states require 1000 or more hours. You can find training available at massage therapy schools, beauty and wellness academies, community colleges with a spa & wellness center, universities & vocational schools with a massage therapy curriculum, and online courses.
In some cases, training may be available from a specific massage school or program you are interested in attending. However, most of the time it must be obtained through outside training. Some of the most popular massage therapy schools & programs to attend are:
- Universal Career Institute – 100+ Hours: $1495-$3520
- Career College of Northern Nevada – 500 Hours: $4500+
- Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP) – 500 Hours: $1595
- Arizona School of Massage Therapy – 450 Hours: $6950-$7950
- National Holistic Institute – 1000 Hours: $11,950+
- Universal College of Healing Arts (UCM) – 600 Hours: $1550-$8065
The cost of your training will vary depending on the school or program you attend, but expect to pay around $5000 for a massage therapy education. Some schools offer tuition reimbursement or financial aid for those who qualify, so be sure to inquire about your options.
#2 Complete State Licensing Requirements
In order to legally practice massage therapy in the United States, you must obtain state licensure. In most cases, this means you must complete a state approved massage therapy training program.
In order to become licensed, you will have to apply for licensure in your home state. Licensing requirements vary by state, but most require that you:
- Be at least 18 years old and of good moral character.
- Have proof of completion of a state approved education program.
- Submit an online application for licensure, pay the fee, and pass the background check.
- Pass the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB).
This process can take between three and six months to complete.
The state licensing boards are responsible for approving massage therapy training programs, so it is best to choose one that has been reviewed and approved by your state.
You can find a list of massage therapy schools & programs recognized by your state by visiting the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) website.
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#3 Apply for Certification
While most states require licensing before you can legally practice massage therapy, certification is optional. However, some employers or state agencies will not hire you unless you are certified.
After completing your massage therapy training, the next step is to apply for certification through the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).
The certification process takes between three and six months to complete. It includes the following steps:
- Pass the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCETMB) . The NCETMB is a 350 question, multiple choice exam. It has 150 questions in the massage therapy section and 200 questions in the bodywork section (optional).
- Submit an application with the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) and pay the fee.
- Submit proof of successful completion of a state approved massage therapy training program.
- Submit proof of being licensed in the United States as either a Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) or a Licensed Bodywork Therapist (LB T).
- Have your photo taken by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB).
- Pass a criminal background check.
After you complete all of these steps, the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) will review your application and submit all the information to state licensing boards.
If the board accepts your application, you will receive a letter of certification.
If you are interested in establishing yourself as an independent contractor, you may want to become a Certified Massage Therapist (CMT).
#4 Join a Massage Therapy Organization
Membership in professional massage therapy organizations is not required, but it will help you network with other professionals.
The American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) is the largest massage therapy organization in America. It offers a variety of membership options, including:
- Annual Membership – $74.00
- Student Annual Membership – $55.40
- Lifetime Membership – $995.00
The AMTA offers certification, educational resources, and networking opportunities. It also offers insurance options to members that are not available to non-members.
The AMTA offers a variety of continuing education courses and workshops throughout the year in various locations.
If you want to become part of an international organization, I would recommend the International Federation of Professional Aromatherapists (IFPA).
The IFPA is a scientific and educational association dedicated to enhancing public awareness and understanding of aromatherapy and its benefits.
The IFPA offers a variety of membership options, including:
- Annual Membership – $35.00
- Lifetime Membership – $295.00
Additionally, the IFPA offers certification (Certified Aromatherapist) and educational resources.
There are also massage therapy associations specific to your state.
To find a list for your state, visit the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB) website.
#5 Find a Massage Therapy Job
While you can become certified and licensed without employment, most professionals find it difficult to get their first job. Luckily for you, there are massage therapists looking for assistants.
One way to find a job is through the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) website.
The AMTA offers a job board specifically for massage therapy jobs. You can find it by logging into the website and clicking on “Job Seekers” on the top menu.
You can also search online for massage therapy jobs in your area, such as:
- Craigslist Massage Therapy Jobs
- Indeed Massage Therapy Opportunities
You can also ask other massage therapists if they are looking for an assistant or have any recommendations.
Once you find a massage therapy job, make sure you:
- Show up on time. You don’t want to lose your first opportunity because of tardiness.
- Follow all rules and policies of the place you are working at, including dress code, hours worked, etc.
- Ask for feedback from your employer.
- Follow through with any responsibilities that you are given.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long does it take to become a massage therapist?
The length of time depends on preexisting conditions and the state in which you live. If you have no health problems, it could take about 500 hours of training. If you have medical conditions that are being addressed through massage therapy, it could take up to 1000 hours.
Another factor that will come into play is licensing by the state. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) offers a Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination.
Is it hard to become a massage therapist?
The training is not difficult to complete, but it does take time and dedication. If you are willing to put in the hours, have a plan for your career, and know how to get a job in this industry, becoming a massage therapist is not difficult.
Where can I find a job as a massage therapist?
There are many ways to find employment in this field. You could ask existing therapists if they know of any opportunities. You could sign up for job alerts through the AMTA and other massage therapy associations.
You can also do an online search for massage therapist jobs in your area.
Is it worth becoming a massage therapist?
It depends. In the U.S., massage therapy has become a recognized health care profession, and its practitioners are in demand in many different settings.
Do massage therapists make good money?
Yes! Massage therapists have a lot of job opportunities available to them. In 2020, the average annual income for massage therapists was $39,980, with some earning as much as $75,000.
What is the average salary of a massage therapist?
The median income for a massage therapist is $39,980. The highest earners make around $75,000 and the lowest earners make about $25,000
Becoming a massage therapist is not difficult, but it does take time and dedication. If you are willing to put in the hours, have a plan for your career, and know how to get a job in this industry, becoming a massage therapist is not difficult.
Look for openings at spas and fitness centers, ask existing therapists if they know of any opportunities, and sign up for job alerts through the AMTA and other massage therapy associations.
We hope this guide helps you in your journey to becoming a massage therapist!
Thank you for reading.