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.
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.
What do massage therapists do?
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.
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.
How to become a massage therapist
The following steps outline how you can become a massage therapist.
- Talk to some massage therapists to see if this is the career for you.
- Research your state's licensing requirements.
- Find an online massage therapy program that meets these requirements.
- Enroll in the massage therapy degree program.
- Choose a specialization if you wish to.
- Gain work experience and complete practical requirements through an internship.
- Obtain the necessary certifications and licenses to practice.
- Look for a job or strike out on your own.
- Renew your certifications and licenses periodically as recommended.
What jobs can I get with a degree in massage therapy
Education requirements for massage therapists vary according to state and locality, the BLS reports. Most states require aspiring massage therapists to complete some sort of postsecondary education that includes at least 500 hours of education. While a certificate program in massage therapy might help you get started, many employers may prefer hiring individuals with either an associate or a bachelor's degree. The table below outlines recent national wage and employment data for massage therapists from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
Projected Job Growth
(2016 - 26)
Benefits of an Online Massage Therapy Degree Program
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.
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.
Choose a degree that can help you meet your career goals
Online massage therapy programs range from those at the professional certificate and diploma levels to bachelor's degree programs. Massage therapists have a variety of options to enhance their career growth through specialized certifications.
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. Specializations can be attained by earning certifications.
Choosing a degree level will 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.
Online Certificates or Diplomas in Massage Therapy
A diploma in massage therapy might help you prepare for passing the state certification examination.
Typical duration: Less than a year
Typical coursework: Courses in an online certificate program may include
- Introduction to Massage Therapy
- Massage Therapy Assessment
- Somatic Studies
- Applied Anatomy
- Clinical Massage
- Deep-Tissue and Myofascial Massage Techniques
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.
Online Associate Degrees in Massage Therapy
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
Online associate degree programs in massage therapy can be completed entirely online or in hybrid formats. These degrees are usually classified as an Associate of Applied Science (AAS).
Typical duration: Two years of full-time study
- Swedish Massage
- History of Massage
- Geriatric Massage Techniques
- Prenatal Massage
- Sports Massage
- Western Massage Theory and Practice
- Eastern Massage Theory and Practice
- Health and Wellness
- Trigger Point Therapy
After completing an associate degree, students may be able pursue an independent practice as a massage therapist or work in healthcare centers, sports facilities, spas and fitness centers.
Online Bachelor's Degrees in Massage Therapy
Online bachelor’s program may be found as a Bachelor of Science with a focus in massage therapy, occupational therapy, manual or integrative therapeutics. Hybrid formats are popular at this level with a few colleges offering fully online programs.
Typical duration: four years of full-time study
- Touch & Palpation
- Aromatherapy Massage
- Manual Therapies / Massage
- Massage Techniques
- Physical Therapy
- Meridians Anatomy
- Acupoints & Acupressure
- Sport Medicine/Injuries
Because students can pursue specializations, they may be able to create a niche market for themselves after earning a bachelor's degree in massage therapy.
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!
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:
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
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)
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.
- Associate of Science in Massage Therapy/Asian Bodyworks, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, https://www.pacificcollege.edu/prospective/programs/san-diego/massage/therapy-bodywork/as, accessed August 2018
- Athletic Trainers, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/athletic-trainers.htm
- Bachelor of Applied Science in Massage Therapy, Siena Heights University, http://sienaheights.edu/Portals/0/Massage%20Therapy%20Flyer.pdf, accessed August 2018
- Bachelor of Science in Massage Therapy, National University of Medical Sciences, http://www.numss.com/BSc(MT).html, accessed August 2018
- Exercise Physiologists, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition, Bureau of Labor Statistics, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/exercise-physiologists.htm
- Hands-On and Online Courses, Lotus Education Institutes, https://lotuseducationinstitute.com/, accessed August 2018
- 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
- Manual Therapy and Massage, Bircham International University, https://www.bircham.edu/manual-therapy-massage.html, accessed August 2018
- 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