Growth Trends for Related Jobs

How Many Years of College Do You Take to Be a Massage Therapist?

careertrend article image

Massage therapists help their clients heal from injuries and live healthier, more relaxed lives. To become a massage therapist, you must complete classroom coursework and training, before applying for a license. As a massage therapist, you can earn a comfortable living, while working in a rapidly growing industry.

About Massage Therapists

Massage therapists use touch to improve circulation, heal injuries and relieve stress in muscles and other body tissues. Therapist evaluate clients’ medical histories and physical conditions to devise short- and long-term treatment plans.

Massage therapists administer treatments using their hands, forearms, fingers and elbows. Some therapists also use their feet in certain techniques, and others work with a second therapist to administer treatment to the client’s upper and lower body at the same time. Therapy sessions usually last 30 to 90 minutes.

Some massage therapists open their own businesses, offering therapies in an office setting or clients’ homes or workplaces. Others work for resorts, health clubs, spas, sports teams, chiropractors or healthcare organizations.

Massage Therapy School

Private schools and community colleges offer masseuse classes and massage certificate programs. Most programs include at least 500 hours of classroom coursework and practical exercises. Coursework often includes topics such as physiology, kinesiology, pathology, anatomy and ethics. Some massage programs focus on certain types of therapies such as Thai, Shiatsu, Swedish or deep tissue massage techniques.

Usually, massage schools require applicants to have earned at least a high school diploma to qualify for admission. Massage programs usually take eight to 12 months to complete, depending on hour requirements.

Typically, massage programs cost $10,000 or less. For example, Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield, Connecticut, offers a program that costs around $9,400, which includes tuition, textbooks and licensing exam fee. The Colorado Institute of Massage Therapy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, offers a 550-hour massage certification program, which costs around $8,000. Additional costs for massage school can include lotions, oils and linens, which can run $300 to 500 per semester.

Some private massage schools provide financing options and many community colleges offer financial assistance programs.

Massage Therapy Regulation

Most states require massage therapists to obtain a license before starting their practice. In some metropolitan areas, massage therapists must also comply with local regulations.

Some states create and administer custom licensing tests, while many use the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards’ Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination.

Coursework required for licensing varies by state. For example, Arizona requires therapists to complete 700 hours of massage school coursework and training, while Idaho requires just 500 hours. Some states also require licensed massage therapists to periodically take continuing education courses.

Massage Therapist Requirements

To succeed as a massage therapist, you must possess certain personal and professional qualities. You must have exceptional physical stamina to stand on your feet for hours at a time, bend over repeatedly and use your upper body muscles for long periods.

Since massage therapists are privy to patients’ medical conditions, they must have the integrity to keep private information confidential. They must also express empathy with clients who suffer from painful or debilitating conditions.

As a massage therapist, you must listen intently to your clients’ needs in order to create an effective treatment plan. You must use your time wisely to accommodate all your clients and set reasonable healing schedules for them to follow.

Average Massage Therapist Salary

In 2017, massage therapists took home a median salary of around $40,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). A median wage represents the center of an occupation’s pay scale. Top earners made more than $77,000. Massage therapists working in chiropractic offices earned the highest incomes.

Massage Therapist  Job Outlook

The BLS expects massage therapist job opportunities to increase by more than 25 percent, through 2026. Growing awareness of massage health benefits and the increasing number of franchise massage clinics, health resorts and spas account for much of the industry’s growth.


Michael Evans’ career path has taken many planned and unexpected twists and turns, from TV sports producer to internet project manager to cargo ship deckhand. He has worked in numerous industries, including higher education, government, transportation, finance, manufacturing, journalism and travel. Along the way, he has developed job descriptions, interviewed job applicants and gained insight into the types of education, work experience and personal characteristics employers seek in job candidates. Michael graduated from The University of Memphis, where he studied photography and film production. He began writing professionally while working for an online finance company in San Francisco, California. His writings have appeared in print and online publications, including Fox Business, Yahoo! Finance, Motley Fool and Bankrate.

Photo Credits