Occupational Therapy

Massage Therapist Job Description

Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education program of 500 or more hours of study and experience, although standards and requirements vary greatly by state or other locality. Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certification.


Educational standards and requirements for massage therapists vary greatly by state or other locality. Education programs are typically found in private or public postsecondary institutions. Most programs require at least 500 hours of study to complete; some programs require 1, 000 hours or more.

A high school diploma or equivalent degree is usually required for admission. Massage therapy programs generally include both classroom study and hands-on practice of massage techniques. Programs cover subjects such as anatomy; physiology, which is the study of organs and tissues; kinesiology, which is the study of motion and body mechanics; pathology, which is the study of disease; business management; and ethics.

Programs may concentrate on certain modalities, or specialties, of massage. Several programs also offer job placement and continuing education. Both full-time and part-time programs are available.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

In 2012, 44 states and the District of Columbia regulated massage therapy. Although not all states license massage therapy, they may have regulations at the local level.

In states with massage therapy regulations, workers must get a license or certification after graduating from an approved program and before practicing massage. Passing an exam is usually required for licensure.

The exam may be solely a state exam or one of two nationally recognized tests: the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) and the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB). Massage therapy licensure boards decide which certifications and tests to accept on a state-by-state basis.

Therapists also may need to pass a background check and be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Many states require massage therapists to complete continuing education credits and to renew their license periodically. Those wishing to practice massage therapy should look into legal requirements for the state and other locality in which they intend to practice.

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