Become a Massage Therapist

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics website (bls.gov) reports that employment for massage therapists is expected to grow 20 percent from 2006 to 2016. While the BLS says that 64 percent of massage therapists are self-employed, many more people practice massage therapy as a second income. The website naturalhealers.com reports that “today’s massage therapist charges an average of $58 for one hour of massage and earns an average wage of $39 an hour (including tips) for all massage-related work, and earns an average of $29,250 (including tips) by providing 15 hours of massage per week.” Massage therapists can work in a variety of settings, from fitness centers to airports and hospitals. How can you get in on this career? Start by becoming a nationally certified massage therapist.

Things You'll Need

  • High school diploma
  • Diploma or certificate from an accredited massage therapy school
  • You will need $225 to take the NCBTMB certification exam, if you choose to certify.
  • You will need to fill out a resume and start a job search after you finish your training, or start your own practice, which will require a business license, liability insurance (depending on your state/local ordinance) and a quiet place to do massage and equipment such as a massage table and massage oils

How to Become a Massage Therapist

  • Do some research. According to massagetherapy.com, the majority of states and the District of Columbia currently regulate the practice of massage therapy Each state varies as to the amount of training required and what exam must be taken (if any). To find your state’s requirements go to the website and click on your state. Even if your state does not require certification, the county or municipality in which you practice may still require it.

  • Apply to a school. You can find a list of schools online. This site features a directory that lists schools in every state plus the District of Columbia and Canada. Massagetherapy101.com says that every massage therapy school will have different requirements. However, most massage therapy schools will require a minimum of a high school diploma, and some schools may require prior knowledge in subjects such as anatomy and physiology and psychology as well as business and the humanities. Massagetherapy101.com says that some schools may require an interview to assess personal qualities such as communications skills. Contact the schools near you to see what their specific requirements are.

  • Once you’re in, you just need to finish the program. Every state and every school will be different. The different states will require a different number of hours of training. The NCBTMB requires at least 500 hours of training time. Many schools have weekend and evening classes. Some programs can be completed in under a year, while others may take up to two years.

  • If your state requires certification, you will need to contact the NCBTMB and apply to take either the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage or the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Body Work.

  • Once you have met your state or municipality's certification or licensing requirements, you can get your resume together and start your job search or begin your own practice. In order to start your own practice, check with your state and local government about business license requirements. You may consider investing in portable massage tables and chairs in order to work in your clients' homes. Or, if you have a quiet place where you can work in your home undisturbed for a few hours a week, you may consider bringing clients there. Aside from the tables and chairs, you will need oils and may wish to invest in massage stones and a warmer along with soothing music that you can play for for your clients.

Tips & Warnings

  • According to the NCBTMB, having certification establishes a massage therapist as a health care provider on par with other professionals requiring certification
  • Many states that do not presently have certification requirements are drafting requirements in their legislatures or may do so at a later time.
  • Just because a state does not require certification does not mean that anyone can set up shop and become a massage therapist. Typically, states that do not regulate massage therapists allow municipalities to set their own regulations. Plus, as a practitioner you will need liability insurance, and most liability insurance providers will require minimum credentials.

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