How to Become a Massage Therapist Online

Oct 20, 2021

Massage Therapist Career Overview

Massage therapists exert pressure on the body that relaxes muscles and provides relief from pain. In addition to administering pressure by touch, massage therapists may also use tools, such as hot stones and oils, as part of their treatments. Typically, massage therapists enter employment after completing a postsecondary non-degree program of about 500 hours that teaches the practical and technical sides of the profession. Due to the hands-on nature of working with clients, massage therapist training includes clinical components, which puts some restrictions on entering this career through online resources.

Required Skills Communication, decision-making, and time management skills; empathy; integrity; physical stamina; physical strength and dexterity
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 22%
Median Salary (2018)* $41,420

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Steps to Become a Massage Therapist Online

In massage therapy programs, students gain both theoretical knowledge and hands-on experience, and some schools offer hybrid programs, combining online studies with in-person sessions where attendance is required for short periods of time. To maintain the state licensure that may be required once you start practicing massage therapy, you can also complete continuing education programs online.

Step 1. Complete Massage Therapy Training

Massage therapy programs teach students how to engage clients and run a business. Whereas the theoretical side of certificate and associate degree programs in massage therapy can be delivered through online courses, the practical side requires in-person teaching and examination. Hybrid online programs provide a compromise that allow for extensive online study while also including short practicum session or hands-on weekend sessions that have to be attended in person to fulfill program requirements. Theory courses include anatomy, physiology, pathology, business management, and ethics. Practical sessions teach massage techniques and develop students' eye for detail when dealing with individual clients. Massage modalities that may be covered in a program include:

  • Swedish massage
  • Sports massage
  • Hydrotherapy

Step 2. Become Licensed as a Massage Therapist

Many states regulate the practice of massage therapy by requiring licensure. The credentialing process could require liability insurance, a background check, and certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Massage therapists who enter the career also generally need to pass an examination to be licensed. While state regulations differ, many states accept the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam to satisfy licensure requirements. Practice tests and MBLEx study resources are available online, but exams are proctored in person at test centers.

Once they earn state licensure, massage therapists may work in private practice either alone or together with other therapists, for sports teams, wellness centers, or other healthcare facilities.

Step 3. Take Further Education as a Practicing Massage Therapist Online

To maintain licensure, many states necessitate that massage therapists earn continuing education credits. Continuing education encourages massage therapists to learn new massage modalities and stay current with medical knowledge in the field. Many courses and programs are available online from providers approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork or state boards. The following are examples of continuing education topics:

  • Condition specific message therapy
  • Medical massage therapy
  • Orthopedic massage
  • Massage for pregnancy and labor
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