How to Become a Massage Therapist

If you are interested in health and wellness and love working with your hands, a career as a massage therapist is perfectly suited to your interests. There are also reliable indications that the demand for qualified massage therapists will be strong for years to come. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the number of massage therapists working in America will grow by 24 percent over the next decade, which is much faster than the national average for all professions. If you are ready to kick-start a rewarding new career, learn how to become a massage therapist. Here’s a step-by-step guide to what you’ll need to do:


Investigate Your School Options

In order to work as a massage therapist, you must be licensed by the state. And in order to be licensed, you must complete a specified number of training hours. There is some flexibility in how you pursue this training, making it easier to tailor your education to your personal and professional requirements. Here are the options you can choose from:

  • Certificate or Diploma – These programs are designed to teach the core concepts of massage therapy in a condensed amount of time. They are quick-to-complete and affordable, but they provide the least amount of preparation for a future career.
  • Associate’s Degree – These programs typically take two years to complete and are relatively inexpensive. An associate’s degree strikes a solid balance between accessibility and academic quality.
  • Bachelor’s Degree – There are a limited number of four-year bachelor’s degree programs in massage therapy available across the country. This option requires the largest investment of time and money but also goes in depth with the theory, science, and practice of massage therapy.

No matter what option you choose to pursue, be sure that the program you enroll in has been recognized by your state’s licensing board. This ensures the program provides a level of education that is in line with professional standards. It also helps you fulfill more of the licensure requirements while you are in school.


Earn Your Professional Credentials

In order to work legally as a massage therapist, you must have a license, certificate or registration from the state. The requirements for earning this credential vary widely, but in most cases, you must have 500–1,000 hours of training. You must then participate in continuing education in order to maintain that license, which usually has a two year renewal. It is wise to look up your state’s requirements before you start your education so that every step you take in preparation for your massage therapy career is a productive one. Once you have been credentialed you are free to start working, but the more education, training and specialized experience you have the more clients you will be able to serve.


Pick Your Career Path

One of the most appealing aspects of a career in massage therapy is how many different ways you can pursue it. Professionals have a lot of agency and flexibility over their work environment, earning potential, and client base. That means no matter what your professional priorities are, you can align your massage therapy career to satisfy them. Here are the most common options.

  • Freelancer – Many people prefer to receive massage therapy in the comfort of their own home. As long as you have the right credentials, including a business license, you can provide massage therapy in whatever setting your clients prefer. This option gives you a lot of flexibility but also requires you to market your services and nurture relationships with clients.
  • Employee – Massage therapists are often employed by health clubs, medical facilities, and massage therapy studios. Since these businesses are owned by others, all you need is a massage therapy license to get started. Working as an employee of business makes it easy to find a steady stream of clients but also limits how much freedom and earning potential you have.
  • Business Owner – If you want to work for yourself and grow your professional opportunities, consider opening your own massage therapy studio. This option takes the most amount of work and presents the largest amount of risk. But it also creates the opportunity for a massage therapist to build a large base of clients, hire other massage therapists as employees, expand into multiple locations, and develop a personal brand.


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