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How Much Education Do You Need to Be a Massage Therapist?

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A massage therapist uses manipulation of the soft tissues in the human body to perform remedial and therapeutic procedures on a patient. These procedures may be designed to increase blood flow, reduce muscle and tissue pain, stimulate nerves, target an injury, prevent permanent damage or improve skin condition. She often works in conjunction with other health professionals--such as chiropractors and physicians--to deliver a personalized treatment regime to a patient. Besides manual manipulation, a massage therapist also may use equipment such as infrared lamps and whirlpool baths to treat patients. To become a massage therapist, an individual must complete a dedicated training program and, in most cases, obtain a license.

High School

A good grade point average and a high school diploma or GED is the first educational requirement for an individual wishing to become a massage therapist. A good all-round academic performance at high school will enable a candidate to access relevant training programs for massage therapy upon graduation. Subjects that are particularly useful to massage therapists are mathematics and the sciences--physics, biology and chemistry.

Massage Therapy Course Application

Most massage therapy courses are offered by private or public post-secondary educational institutions and last between six months and a year. When choosing a school, a candidate should ensure it meets the requirements of her state licensing body and grants her a certificate of graduation. Ideally, a candidate should attend a program approved by a nationally recognized accreditation agency. One such agency is the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation that, as of 2011, accredited about 70 massage therapy training programs throughout the United States.

Massage Therapy Course

During a massage therapy training program an individual can expect to study anatomy, physiology--the study of organs and tissues, kinesiology--the study of movement, pathology--the study of diseases, medical ethics, public health, hygiene and business administration. She also will undertake hands-on practice of a variety of massage techniques under the guidance of a qualified professional.


To practice as a massage therapist, an individual will usually need to obtain a license from the licensing board in the state in which she wishes to practice. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that as of 2020, 42 states and the District of Columbia require a massage therapist to have some form of license. Licensure requirements vary between states but are likely to include a compulsory amount of practical experience and the sitting of a written examination. Common examinations are the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork exam or the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination, administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

Massage Therapists salary

  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $79,150 ($38.05/hour)
  • Median Annual Salary: $43,620 ($20.97/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $22,580 ($10.86/hour)

Dirk Huds has been a writer/editor for over six years. He has worked for bookshops and publishers in an editorial capacity and written book reviews for a variety of publications. He is currently studying for his master's degree.

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