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Massage Therapist Certification - What does it Take?

Feb 5, 2008
When people talk about earning massage certificates and diplomas, they do not mean the same thing as gaining massage therapy certification. It is possible to get certificates after a number of hours of training in one specific area of massage, but still not be legally qualified to practice in many states. There are several very deliberate steps required before one can become a certified massage therapist, and almost every state has its own laws and regulations to follow.


The first step towards certification is to check for accreditation There are hundreds of good accredited massage therapy schools across the US and Canada that can train you to pass exams for certification. The school you are planning to attend should be accredited by reputable, professional associations. Find out also if its recognized by your state or provincial government. One significant sign is whether or not students of the school are eligible for public funding in the form of grants or loans. If not, that may indicate that the school curriculum does not meet the government idea of best practices when it comes to massage therapy.


Typically, you will have to take a government-certified examination with both a practical and written component to become certified or licensed. You may want to find out in advance what the requirements are in the state in which you want to practice. It is also becoming increasingly common for graduating students to take national and international certification exams shortly after completing school. Find out how widely recognized your certification will be. One program may lead to certification in one state, while another school may lead to national certification. The latter may provide more flexibility. For more information about certification, contact your local massage therapy association. It can be very helpful to your career to belong to a professional association, since most offer benefits, programs and services that can help your practice succeed.

What is needed

To practice massage therapy in most states requires certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Many states also require certified massage therapists to be licensed. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork requires that candidates acquire a minimum number of 500 hours of training from an approved school (accredited by the US Department of Education or approved by the state of practice); required education must include:

125 hours of body systems, anatomy, physiology and kinesiology

200 hours of massage and bodywork assessment, theory and application

40 hours of pathology

10 hours of business and ethics, including at least 6 hours of ethics

125 hours of additional instruction

The candidate must then pass the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork exam to prove competency in practical skills (hands-on) as well as knowledge and understanding of professional massage practices. Some states require Massage Therapists to take periodic continuing education in massage practices. The administrators and instructors at the best schools are often a good resource to help students through this process.

Rewarding Career

In short, there are few professions that offer such great personal rewards as those of the natural healer; becoming a nationally certified massage therapist is one of the best ways to prove expertise in natural healing. Techniques from different parts of the world may be taught including the more familiar ones like Swedish, shiatsu, sports, therapeutic touch and deep-tissue massage. Training is not just about learning massage skills or techniques. Training and certification from a recognized and accredited massage therapy school is important for you in gaining the respect of other health care professionals.
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Pj Germain

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