Online Degrees in Massage Therapy

Article Sources
  • 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

Growing at a pace of 26 percent, higher than the national average of 7.4 percent for any other occupation, the job outlook for massage therapists is likely to experience strong growth right through to 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Those who love to help people and have a passion for healthy living may find meaningful and gainful employment with a degree in massage therapy. An added benefit that attracts people to this profession is the flexibility and independence it can offers in terms of location, as well as choice in part-time or full-time work.

Flexibility and convenience may also be why many prospective students may want to earn a degree in massage therapy online.

What do massage therapists do?

Massage therapists assist a wide range of clients with muscle pain and stress relief. Through manually manipulating a person'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, nursing homes, alternative medical clinics, physical therapy offices, spas, resorts, and private practices. Massage therapists have a variety of options to enhance their career growth through specialized certifications.

The typical entry-level education required for enrolling in a massage therapy program is a high school diploma or equivalent. Having a postsecondary credential like a degree or prior postsecondary education on subjects like anatomy, physiology, humanities, and business may be useful and possibly could translate into transferrable credits at some colleges.

Benefits of an Online Massage Therapy Degree Program

Online massage therapy degree programs can be a great fit for learners who may need to juggle family responsibilities with education coursework. They can also be a solid option for those who are preparing for employment in a new career while still employed in an existing job. Here are some of the benefits of earning a degree online:

  • Online degree programs in massage therapy can provide students with the opportunity to gain knowledge - and prepare for a career - while enjoying the flexibility and freedom that 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 onto a physical environment.
  • Students in an online degree program generally have the option to design a study schedule that suits their family and/or 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.

Prior to enrolling in any online massage therapy degree program, students should make sure that it meets the licensing requirements of their local area and state.To get the most out of your program, look for online massage therapy schools that promote a high-level of communication with professors and fellow classmates through mediums like video chat, message boards, and email. This helps build a collaborative environment that encourages and supports online learning.

What can I expect to learn in a massage therapy program?

Massage therapists are required to understand basic massage therapy techniques and principles as well as possess an understanding of human anatomy and physiology. These professionals must be excellent communicators, exhibit time management and basic business 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
  • Kinesiology
  • Deep-Tissue and Myofascial Massage Techniques
  • Trigger Point Therapy

As with any massage therapy degree program - campus-based or online - students must also complete a "hands-on" component. This helps them to gain real-world experience, enabling them to apply what they have learned in the classroom to practical situations.

Choose a degree that will help you meet your career goals

Massage therapy programs range from those at the professional certificate and diploma levels to bachelor's degree programs. Since all levels of education can lead to a career as a massage therapist, the question to ask yourself is: what career goals do I want to pursue? Here's something to think about.

  • A diploma in massage therapy might help you prepare for passing the state certification examination. After passing the exam and securing licensure, a massage therapist can be self-employed, or work in franchises, spas, cruise ships, physicians' clinics, nursing homes or other settings.
  • Higher levels of education will not only give you a deeper understanding of the field, but can provide you with a more competitive edge to apply for higher-paying positions. Employers typically prefer to hire massage therapists who have an associate or bachelor's degree.

Choosing a degree level will also depend on how much time you want to spend studying. Remember that any of these massage therapy degrees can be taken fully online and therefore allow you to earn your degree without having to leave your job or give up other obligations you may have.


Length of Completion

Certificate or Diploma in Massage Therapy

Typically less than one year

Associate Degree in Massage Therapy Usually classified as an Associate of Applied Science (AAS)

Typically two years of full-time study

Bachelor's Degree in Massage Therapy Usually classified as a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS)

Typically four years of full-time study

Average Salary
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
Massage Therapists103,300$44,95023.5%
Source: 2016 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2016-26 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov.


Before enrolling in an online degree program in massage therapy make sure the program is accredited the United States Department of Education (USDE). Other accrediting bodies include:

  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • National Accrediting Commission of Arts and Sciences (NACCAS)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)

Core and Specialty Certifications for Massage Therapists

Certifications in core subjects will allow you to meet the requirement of your state or municipality. As a massage therapist, in order to maintain your license you may be required to continue to enhance your education by taking online courses in an array of specialized subjects in massage therapy like sports, cardiovascular health, cancer, carpel tunnel syndrome, fascial therapy, migraines, pediatric oncology massage, lower back pain, skin conditions, active seniors, diabetes, post-operative pain, sciatica, stress, painful necks, and more!But even if recertification isn't your goal, it can still be a good idea to take courses in specialized subjects in order to potentially enhance your career focus.

Here are just a few certifications you can earn along with their certifying bodies:

Certification Name

Certifying Organization


Diplomate in Asian Bodywork Therapy

National CertificationCommission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine


Board Certification in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork


National Reflexology Certification - Hand Exam

American Reflexology Certification Board


Massage Therapy Certification

American Health Source


Zero Balancing Certification

Zero Balancing Association


National Reflexology Certification - Foot Exam

American Reflexology Certification Board


Source: Career One Stop, U.S. Dept. of Labor, onetonline.org

Licensure for Massage Therapists

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, although some states or localities may 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. Completing a massage therapy degree program usually fulfills study requirements for the local area and can provide students with the knowledge needed to pass local and state licensure exams.

What is the career outlook after earning a degree in massage therapy?

The table below outlines recent national wage and employment data for massage therapists from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Job Outlook 2016-2026

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

26% (much faster than average)



Top-paying metropolitan areas for massage therapists

Metropolitan area

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

Anchorage, AK



Kingston, NY



Fairbanks, AK



Kahului-Wailuku-Lahaina, HI



Eugene, OR



Top-paying industries for massage therapists


Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage

Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals



Specialty (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse) Hospitals



Management of Companies and Enterprises



Civic and Social Organizations



Individual and Family Services



Scholarships and Financial Aid Programs

Other Resources for Aspiring Massage Therapists

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