Massage Therapy Certification 101
If you have good, strong hands and believe in the healing power of touch, you may have thought about making it official: taking the first steps to become a certified massage therapist.
However, being good with your hands is not enough to make a career out of it – just like having a knack for chemistry isn’t enough to make a person a pharmacist. You may cause more harm than good if you attempt to treat people without appropriate training, especially if those people have an injury or illness.
Most states require massage therapists to be licensed or at least certified before they can practice. Even if you live somewhere where there is no state-level regulation – such as Kansas, Minnesota, Vermont or Wyoming – getting certified is always a good idea. Having certification assures your clients that you are properly trained and that they can trust you. The training program itself also gives you the opportunity to learn more advanced techniques, which can broaden the scope of your practice and expand your potential clientele.
In this post, we will explore how to get certified as a massage therapist, and, once you’re certified, what to do next to begin your career.
What Is Massage Therapy
Massage therapy is a general term that can refer to any form of massage service.
However, the term is being used more and more often in the context of alternative medical treatment. Certified massage therapists have knowledge of anatomy and various forms of pressure, allowing them to target areas of tension and injury in patients. Their services help alleviate pain, improve mobility, and allow patients to overcome certain types of physical limitations related to injury or repetitive stress.
The Mayo Clinic says that massage therapy can provide a number of measurable health benefits for conditions such as:
- Joint pain
- Soft tissue strains or injuries
- Chronic pain
- Myofascial pain syndrome
The requirements to become a massage therapist vary from state to state. In California, you dont have to have a certification to work as a massage therapist, whereas in Nevada you do.
Obtaining a certification in California can help you apply to a wider number of jobs, earn more confidence from your clients, and compete for higher-paying positions.
The California Massage Therapy Council offers a certification to those who have completed at least 500 hours at an approved massage therapy school. 100 hours of this course work must include anatomy and physiology, contraindications, health and hygiene, and business and ethics.
What Do You Learn In Massage Therapy School
A massage therapist must be good with his or her hands, but the job also requires in-depth knowledge of the human body, strong communication skills, and the ability to understand a clients sometimes complicated medical history. In addition to taking the core classes your school may require for graduation, you may also learn:
- Communication Skills for Health ProfessionalsThis kind of class teaches you to explain complex procedures or medical conditions to clients.
- Anatomy and Physiology
- These topics provide an overview of the bodys structure and how it functions.
- Health PsychologyIn this type of course, you can learn about the causes and treatments of psychological issues that can affect the body physically.
- EthicsMoral codes extend to business dealings, and this kind of course will lay the foundation for how you might make ethical choices.
- Critical Thinking for Health ProfessionalsThis type of class may teach you how to problem-solve complicated situations in healthcare.
- Medical TerminologyThese types of courses introduce you to the terminology used by healthcare professionals in the industry.
You may also take elective courses such as business management, pregnancy massage or sports massage to help further your career. Some courses may even touch on holistic practices including herbalism, aromatherapy, meditation, homeopathy, yoga and tai chi.
sponsored content, school availability varies by location
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Massage Therapy Licence Requirements
Touch is fundamental to humans. It provides both emotional and physical health benefits. A career in massage therapy lets you help people in a meaningful way. You give them relief from aches and pains and help them get rid of tension so they can relax. It’s rewarding work that makes a difference in people’s lives.
Massage therapy is a regulated field in most states, as well as Washington, D.C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Kansas, Minnesota, Wyoming and Vermont currently have no state regulation and leave requirements to the municipalities.
To practice in the states where the profession is regulated, you have to complete a minimum number of training hours and pass a licensing exam. The required number of training hours, as well as the exam required, varies by state, although most states use the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Examination .
Where And How To Practice While Studying
Practicing on other students is a fairly standard part of a massage therapy certification course. Many schools also have massage clinics where people can get free or discounted massages to provide students with an opportunity to practice. You can also offer free massages to friends and family members. Chances are, they’ll be more than happy to let you practice on them.
Practicing as much as you can not only helps you gain confidence, it builds up the considerable strength in your hands that you will need as a professional massage therapist.
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Difference Between A Massage Therapist Licensed Massage Therapist Certified Massage Therapist & Massage Therapist Practitioner
For example, some States do not have licensed status.
In those states, a certified therapist is the highest stature of a practitioner.
The opposite can be true for States that do not have a certified status and only have a licensed status.
As far as making money is concerned, a certified or licensed massage therapist has the highest salary.
Since people trust certified therapists, they are willing to pay more for the reliability.
They are certain that the therapist will adhere to the highest standards of ethics and business practices when performing massages.
Note that these are generalizations.
There are exceptions in every professional field that driven by all kinds of variables.
Now that the differences between these terms have been clarified, you should be able to make better sense of the different titles used for massage therapists.
Knowledge and awareness are critical to your success now and later, and that is precisely what we focus on here at the MTSI.
What Are The Differences Between Certification Licensing And Accreditation In The Massage Profession
Professional certification uses a formal process to identify and acknowledge individuals who have met a recognized standard and is typically a voluntary process. Usually this standard includes education, experience, and an exam of knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform the job.
When an individual meets the standard, he or she receives certification from a certifying agency. The credibility and integrity of the certifying agency determines whether the agencys certification means anything to the public, and therefore, ultimately, its value. Accordingly, certification agencies may seek out recognition by an outside agency that will, in turn, attest to the certifying agency meeting a standard.
Generally, this standard involves the requirements to take the exam, whether the exam meets accepted psychometric standards for exam development, how the exam is given and scored, how the agency is administered, and whether its rules are fair. A non-governmental professional organization grants recognition to an individual who has met certain qualifications. The National Organization for Competency Assurance operates the National Commission for Certifying Agencies for that purpose.
Two regulatory variations are state certification and registration. These generally are somewhat less restrictive than licensing, but how each is defined can vary from state to state.
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Two: Earn Acertificate Or Degree In Massage Therapy
Complete a degree from an accreditedschool or educational program featuring didactic coursework andpractical experience. These programs are ideally accredited by theCommission on Massage Therapy Accreditation , but a studentsinstitution of choice should at least be approved by a regional bodyrecognized by the Commission on Higher Education Accreditation, which is part of the U.S. Department of Education.
Differences In Massage Therapy Program Lengths By State City And Education
The amount of time you spend in school can depend on the type of education you seek and the state or city in which you take classes. Each states regulations vary, and program length is directly affected by this. In Delaware, for example, youd need only 300 hours of training from an approved school to become a massage technician, while the states of New York and Nebraska require the most training, with 1,000 hours of education.
There are also a few states that, rather than hold state-wide requirements, vary based on municipality, or even by the type of job you seek. This is the case in Kansas, Minnesota, Wyoming and Vermont.
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Whats The Difference Between A Massage Therapy License And Certification
A question we get a lot here at the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork is, What is the difference between a certification and a license?
In the world of massage therapy, people often use the words licensed and certified interchangeably. While each term represents the involvement of local government in the regulation of the profession, licensing and certification mean different things.
Physical Therapy Training And Practice
Physical therapy education reflects more of a medical model. Physical therapists have a higher education level which includes a far more in-depth study of body systems. While a Canadian physiotherapist roughly the counterpart of a U.S. physical therapist may earn a credential on the strength of a masters degree, the doctoral degree has become the U.S. standard.
A physical therapists scope of practice is greater than a massage therapists. The physical therapist may perform medical massage but will also do many things that are outside a massage therapists scope, for example, assessing the physical function of a person who has had a stroke or selecting assistive devices to help a patient with mobility issues. The massage therapist may make diagnoses, though the scope will be different than a medical doctor. The physical therapist may put together complex treatment plans.
In many cases, it wont actually be the physical therapist carrying out the more routine treatments it will be the physical therapy assistant, an individual who typically has a degree at the associates level.
Massage Certifications And Degrees
The requirements to practice as a massage therapist are most often regulated at the state level, with four exceptions: Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Vermont. There are different massage education paths that will satisfy each states licensing requirements. These generally break down into two types: certifications that are focused on teaching you massage-related information quickly so you can get licensed and working as a massage therapist as soon as possible, and more general education degrees where massage or massage-related coursework features prominently as a specialization.
The variety of massage education options means that many different types of institutions offer massage therapy schooling, including local community colleges, so-called naturalistic colleges, and stand-alone massage schools. Make sure you confirm the program you choose is accredited, as many states require you to have attended an accredited program in order to be licensed. In addition, federal financial aid programs will only provide funding if your school is accredited.
Whats best for you depends on your educational goals do you want a well-rounded learning experience or are you more focused on obtaining exactly what you need to begin practicing with clients? You should also consider how much time youre willing to invest in your schooling, and remember that the minimum education required by employers varies based on your state.
What Is The Difference Between Physical Therapy Occupational Therapy And Massage Therapy
The healthcare field is exploding with opportunities these days. Not only are traditional positions like doctors and nurses in high demand, but there are also tons of new and emerging career fields all focused on wellness.
Some of the most exciting fields in the healthcare sector involve therapeutic healing. People who have undergone surgery, who have a disability, or who have any other sort of injury or condition all rely on therapy as a secondary means of treatment. Various therapists provide secondary support to professional medical providers, helping bridge the gap between initial treatment and full healing.
Within these therapy career fields, there can be some confusion, though. Namely: many people want to know the difference between physical therapy and occupational therapy. They may also want to know where massage therapy lies on the spectrum of alternative treatment. The answers to these questions can help them decide whether to go to massage therapy school, a physical therapy aide training program, or another type of trade program to pursue their interests.
While all three fields offer important services to individuals who need healing and therapeutic support, the choice between them can differ a lot. The qualifications of a certified massage therapist, for instance, will be slightly different than someone who wants to become a physical therapists aide.
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Cultivating A Professional Reputation
Massage therapy boasts an unusually high proportion of self-employed workers . Even if you work in an institution like a spa or care facility, the one-to-one nature of the work means that like it or not, your individual reputation will have a big impact on your career. This is precisely what makes this line of work so attractive for many people, but the prospect raises some unique challenges regardless.
You need to present yourself as an authority in the field who has enough expertise to deal with all kinds of cases and clients with little outside help. The increasingly serious nature of the massage therapy industry means this is more important than ever.
Getting a massage therapy degree is one of the simplest ways to show that you’re knowledgeable serious about what you do. When you hold that documentation, an official educational institution is implicitly vetting you, borrowing some of the strength of their reputation while you take the time to build your own. It’s part of laying a solid foundation for your future that can make a massive difference early on.
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Licensing Vs Certification In Massage Vs Certificate
To become a massage therapist, one must become licensed to practice in whatever state you live and want to practice. There are still a few states that do not require a state license.
As part of the licensing requirements you will need to take a test that is approved by your state board of massage. Currently there are two main exams The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork Board Certification test and the Federation of Massage Therapy Boards offers and exam called the MBLEx .
Each state also has very specific education requirements that vary by the number of hours of education and the classes that make up those hours. You have to meet the education requirements in that state in order to qualify to be licensed in that state no matter which test you take. Taking the test does not necessarily mean that you can move to another state and use passing that test as a way to obtain your massage license. You still need to meet those hours of education and class times that are required in each state. Learn more about what is required in each state to obtain a license to practice massage.
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Ncbtmb Board Certification Requirements
Massage therapist Board Certification requirements include:
- Passing the NCBTMB Board Certification exam
- Graduating from an NCBTMB assigned school or obtaining approval via Board portfolio review
- Maintaining continuing education requirements for renewal
- Passing a national background check
- Verification of state issued massage therapist license that is current
- Affirming the NCBTMB Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
Massage Therapist Specializations & Degree Types
Massage therapy programs offer degreesand certificates which can be earned at two-year colleges or privatetrade schools and institutions. Most educational and trainingprograms in massage therapy require anywhere from 500 to 1,000 hours of study and hands-on experience. Some programs offerinstruction in general massage techniques while others teachspecialty massage skills which enable professionals to use specifictypes of techniques to heal or treat certain ailments.
Specializations in massage therapyinclude:
A list of featured and accredited massagetherapy educational programs is included below.
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Studying Massage As A Discipline
Regulations and policies are subject to change. But whatever theoretically may be in a nurses scope of practice, one is limited by ones own competency. The Oregon Board notes that with complementary modalities, it is important to understand theoretical underpinnings, practical applications, and risks and to be able to document competency if its called into question.
The training received in a nursing program may be minimal, especially if the nurse has not studied at the graduate level. Most people know how to perform a simple back or shoulder rub, but they dont know how to use massage to its full healing potential. Massage therapists typically have 600 or more hours of initial training this includes concepts such as indications and contraindications as well as guided instruction in use of particular modalities. Techniques used to decrease agitation in Alzheimers patients might be relatively simple. However, techniques used to alleviate symptoms in some other health conditions are difficult to master. Massage is its own discipline. Trained, licensed massage therapists pursue continuing education in their areas of specialization and may ultimately have far more hours than what is required for licensure.
Cmt And Lmt Differences
The basic difference between certified massage therapists and licensed massage therapists is the certification versus licensure process. Certification is offered by private, non-governmental agencies which acknowledge that an individual has met measurable standards. Certification is not necessary to practice, but it can award specific privileges. Licensure is offered by local and state government agencies with the knowledge that an individual has met measurable standards and has the ability to maintain standards while ensuring health and safety. If licensed, the individual must display the licensure in the designated place of business at all times when services are being performed. Certification and licensure can be held by the same individual.
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