How Long Does it Take to Become a Massage Therapist?

If you’d like to become a massage therapist, there’s a set time frame you’ll need to meet. Most states have a certain number of hours you must complete in each category, and you’ll also have to pass the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) before earning certification.

While you can complete a program that meets the minimum requirements for your state, many massage therapists choose to earn their college degree as well. Earning a degree will make you stand out from the rest, and as massage therapy is now considered by many in the medical field to be an important treatment option, a degree will make you more employable in the health services sector.

All-in-all, the time it takes to become a massage therapist depends upon how much time you have to devote to the process. Here are some general time guides for each part of that process.

Getting Certification

How long it takes to become a massage therapist will depend upon where you live, so you should check with your state board before choosing a program. State requirements range from 330 to 1,000 minimum hours of training before you qualify for certification and licensing, so it could range from several weeks up to two years.

In addition, most states require both a minimum number of hours of training as well as a passing grade on the MBLEx. If it’s a different state from where you train you should also verify the state board accepts the school in which you plan to train. The national average of massage therapist training is 673 hours.

Time Estimate: Three months to one year

Associate’s Degree

While you can become certified and licensed with a short certification program, many massage therapists choose to enter an associate’s degree program. Although massage is obviously a hands-on career it does involve extensive knowledge of physiology and anatomy, so you would be wise to combine your actual massage training with a degree program in the health field. If your long term goal is to become self-employed, you can round out your education with business and marketing courses to fully equip yourself as an entrepreneur.

Time Estimate: Two years

Bachelor’s Degree

If your dream is to work in a hospital, nursing home or in conjunction with a chiropractor or other heath professional, you should consider making a bachelor’s degree your long term goal. In addition, you might consider entering the nursing field with a specialty of massage. A bachelor’s degree can show you have mastered the art of your profession and are dedicated to the field of massage therapy.

Time Estimate: Four years

Starting Your Career

Your best bet for getting a fast start to your massage therapy career is to focus your studies on one specific type of treatment. By concentrating on a specialty area you will stand out to employers in that niche, so find what type of massage therapy interests you the most and focus on that for initial training. Sports massage, clinical massage and Swedish are all examples of areas you might specialize in. Keep in mind that most states require continuing education in order for you to renew your massage license, so you can always extend your specialty or branch out to another once your practice is established.


In general, the answer to how long does it take to become a massage therapist depends on where you live, so it’s a good plan to expect to take two years of education and earn at least an associate’s degree. If your state has lower requirements you might choose to become certified and licensed as soon as you meet the minimum standard, then continue your degree work online until you earn your diploma in your area of specialty.


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