Blending their love of helping people with a passion for healthy living, massage therapists assist a wide range of clients with muscle pain and stress relief. Through manually manipulating one's muscles, massage therapy treatments can lessen symptoms of pain, reduce stress, assist with healing of injuries, and improve overall circulation. Massage therapists can be found working in a number of health and wellness businesses, including hospitals, physical therapy offices, chiropractic offices, spas, resorts, and private practices.
How to Choose the Right Massage Therapy Degree
To become a massage therapist, some postsecondary training is required. Standards for licensure and certification vary by state and locality. However, most massage therapists are required to attend training programs lasting at least 500 hours, although some programs can be significantly longer. Attending a massage therapy degree program typically fulfills study requirements for the local area. Online degrees in massage therapy can help provide students with the career knowledge needed to pass local and state licensure exams. Students pursuing a massage therapy degree will typically enroll in courses covering topics such as massage techniques, ethics, anatomy and physiology, pathology, and business.
Massage therapy programs range from professional certificate and diploma programs to bachelor's degrees in massage therapy. Students who are interested in continuing their education in other health-related fields may wish to enroll in career specific graduate programs. In the chart below, we've listed several types of online degrees available in the field. We've also included some degrees which are necessary to pursue careers in closely related fields.
Length of Completion
Certificate or Diploma in Massage Therapy
Less than one year
Associate in Massage Therapy
Associate degrees typically take up to two years of full-time study to complete.
Associate in Physical Therapy Assisting
These programs usually take up to two years of full-time study to complete.
Physical Therapy Assistant
Bachelor's in Massage Therapy
These programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete.
Bachelor's in Exercise Physiology
These programs take up to four years of full-time study to complete.
Master's in Athletic Training
These programs take up to two years of full-time study after completion of a bachelor's degree.
Doctor of Physical Therapy Degree
These programs take three to four years of study after earning a bachelor's degree. A master's degree may be a prerequisite to enrollment.
A massage therapy degree is typically required by state or local governments in order to practice legally as a massage therapist. Before choosing the type of program they wish to attend, students should carefully consider their intended career path. Vocational training in massage therapy can help students secure employment as a massage therapist in just one to two years. However, if a student's interests lay in a related career field, an extended period of study may be necessary to achieve their career goals. Prior to enrolling in any massage therapy program, students should make sure that it meets the licensing requirements of their local area and state.
What to Expect in a Massage Therapy Program
While pursuing a degree in massage therapy, students can expect to obtain a thorough academic understanding of massage therapy and its practical uses. Massage therapists are required to understand basic massage therapy techniques and principles as well as possess an understanding of human anatomy and physiology. Furthermore, these professionals must be excellent communicators, exhibit time management skills, and maintain the physical dexterity and stamina required of their work.
Typical core courses for a massage therapy program include:
- Introduction to Massage Therapy
- Swedish Massage
- History of Massage
- Somatic Studies
- Applied Anatomy
- Massage Therapy Assessment
- Geriatric Massage Techniques
- Prenatal Massage
- Clinical Massage
- Sports Massage
- Western Massage Theory and Practice
- Eastern Massage Theory and Practice
- Health and Wellness
- Deep-Tissue and Myofascial Massage Techniques
- Trigger Point Therapy
Online degrees in massage therapy aim to help provide students with the knowledge necessary to complete their massage therapy training and pass any examinations required for licensure. As with any massage therapy degree program, students must also complete a "hands-on" component. This helps students gain real-world experience, enabling them to apply what they have learned in the classroom to practical situations.
In order to become a massage therapist, the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reports that students typically must complete a postsecondary program consisting of at least 500 hours of training. The Bureau also states that requirements for licensure or certification vary greatly by state and locality, citing that some areas call for more than 1,000 hours of training to meet licensing requirements. Passage of a state examination or the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) from the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards is also typically required.
Massage Therapy Degree Specializations
Throughout the years, many different forms of massage therapy have been developed and practiced in different regions of the world. Although most massage therapy programs spend time covering all of these techniques, graduates holding a massage therapy degree may wish to specialize in one of the following disciplines:
- Swedish Massage
- Deep-Tissue Massage
- Sports Massage
- Medical Massage
- Shiatsu Massage
- Myofascial Release Therapy
- Spa Therapy
- Thai Bodywork
- Stone Therapy
- Trigger Point Massage
While some massage therapy practitioners may decide to specialize in a certain area of massage, many do not. Online degree programs typically help students understand and obtain skills in each specialization, which can later be used to treat clients according to their needs.
Benefits of an Online Degree in Massage Therapy
Besides possessing the physical skills and stamina needed to practice, future massage therapists must also have the schooling needed to pass their licensure exams and assist their clients in a knowledgeable and professional manner. Online degrees in massage therapy are the perfect opportunity for students to gain this knowledge while enjoying the flexibility and freedom that an online education can provide.
Online massage therapy students have the opportunity to leverage current technologies to help them gain the book knowledge they need without having to step on to a campus environment. Communicating with professors and fellow classmates through video chat, message boards, and email helps build a collaborative environment that encourages and supports online learning.
Students in an online degree program generally have the option to design a study schedule that suits their family and work commitments. Lectures and course materials can be found online at any time of the day, providing a flexibility not available from traditional on-campus courses. Online degrees in massage therapy are a great fit for adult learners who may have families and are seeking employment in a second career.
Careers in Massage Therapy
A degree in massage therapy is a wonderful option for students interested in pursuing careers in natural health and health related professions. The table below outlines some of the most popular careers which are closely related to massage therapy, complete with recent wage and employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Expected Job Growth
(2014 - 2024)
|Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides||135,610||$46,170||30.1%|
For more information about online degrees in massage therapy, contact any of the schools listed below.
Athletic Trainers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm
Exercise Physiologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm
Massage Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/massage-therapists.htm
May 2014 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Physical Therapists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm
Physical Therapist Assistants and Aides, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapist-assistants-and-aides.htm