Massage therapy is a fast-growing profession that can provide a steady income with flexible hours. The most common path to a career in massage therapy is to attend a 2-year degree program at a local college or university. To become licensed, most programs require a minimum of 500 hours of study, but some can require 1000 or more. The college programs require classroom participation as well as hands-on learning and practice. Students not only learn how to become a massage therapist, but also the sciences behind massage. Programs cover subjects such as anatomy, physiology, Kinesiology, Pathology, in addition to finance, business management and ethics.
Once the degree program is complete the next step to becoming a massage therapist is to pass a licensing exam. Most states regulate their own licensing, and there may also be licensing requirements at a local level. There may be state exams available, but there are two primary nationally recognized exams, the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), which massage therapists must pass in order to practice. Therapists also may need to pass a background check and be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Once licensed, therapists are required to renew their licensing every few years, dependent on state/local regulations.
Once licensed almost half of massage therapists choose to become self-employed, which can provide more flexibility in the type of massage as well as the location it is offered. Self-employed massage therapists not only run their own practice, but also handle everything that comes with a business such as taxes, equipment, insurance, etc. Self-employed massage therapists can work in both private and public settings, such as home offices or fitness centers. Some massage therapists also open their practice with the ability to travel to clients’ homes or offices to give a massage. The massage therapists that don’t become self-employed find they fit well in a salon or spa atmosphere, working with the elderly in nursing homes or retirement complexes, in a physical therapy practice, or at hospitals. Massage is becoming a more widely recognized form of rehabilitative therapy, and massage therapy positions in healthcare fields are quickly becoming more and more common.
If you would like more information on how to become a massage therapist, there are several resources available to help you decide if it is a path you would like to follow. To start, the US Department of Labor (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm#tab-1) has information on job prospects, average yearly income, and regulation information. Another great website to check out is the American Massage Therapy Association (http://www.amtamassage.org/index.html) that can also provide support and resources for licensed massage therapists.
Once you have decided massage therapy is the right fit for you, start researching local community colleges and universities for massage therapy programs. Many offer flexible class schedules, and even programs that run on nights and weekends. Once you find a school that works for you talk with an admissions counselor to find out how to enroll, and you will be on your way to an exciting career in massage therapy.
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