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How Do You Become a Certified Massage Therapist?

certified massage therapist sitting on a massage table

Interested in becoming a certified massage therapist? A certified massage therapist treats and manipulates the client’s muscles and other soft tissues through touch. Massage helps reduce pain, bolster wellness, relieve stress, heal injuries, foster relaxation, and improve circulation. The demand for massage therapy creates a need for high-quality, extensively trained massage therapists who have earned their certification. The most important step in becoming a certified massage therapist is finding the right school.

Finding the Right School

Finding the right vocational school can be an arduous undertaking and the most crucial decision to make in your career as a certified massage therapist. It’s hard to decipher which school gives you the most benefit for your money, with so many to consider. To help decide which vocational school is worth every penny, here are some factors to look into when selecting a massage therapy school:

Accredited Massage Therapy Program

An accredited school helps students achieve a standard education level and adequately sets them up to practice as a certified massage therapist. Schools request evaluations and have their programs assessed by an independent accrediting agency. Some institutions carry multiple accreditations to cover all the programs they offer.

School Faculty and Staff

Take time to find out about the experience and credentials of the faculty. Skilled and competent mentors will help you build a secure and robust foundation for your clinical knowledge and professional practice preparation. The instructors should not just teach the program but make the material exciting and foster an immersive, hands-on learning environment. When visiting campuses, to get a good idea of the instructor’s ability to teach students, ask to attend a classroom and practical training session.

Word of Mouth

Talk to some massage therapy students to learn valuable insight about the school. Ask questions and bring up concerns about the instructors’ ability, quality of teaching materials, administrative staff’s willingness to assist students, and a typical day for a student there. It wasn’t too long ago they did all the research that went into choosing the best school for their individual needs. Remember, every student’s individual needs are different, and not every school fits every student. Also, talk to some massage therapists already practicing in the field and find out how well their school prepared them for certification, licensing exams, and employment.

Curriculum

Massage therapy school contains several different classes and covers a lot of material. In addition to the instructor’s ability to teach, you need to ensure the courses offered are all-inclusive. Meaning everything is covered to prepare you for a career in the massage field competently. A good massage therapy program will not only teach you massage technique but will give you the business savvy and communication skills needed to succeed as a certified massage therapist. What’s the speed at which the learning material gets covered? Some schools go over instruction quicker than other schools.

Financial Aid and Job Placement Services

Comparing the costs of schools gives you an idea of what fits your budget. Don’t let that dream of becoming a massage therapist slip through your fingers because the expense seems out of reach. Accredited massage therapist schools typically offer financial aid programs for those who qualify to help pay for the program. It’s worth inquiring whether prospective schools provide financial aid options such as payment plans, grants, low-interest student loans, scholarships, or work-study programs. Inquire about their job placement service that colleges and other educational institutions offer to help graduates find work. Examples of these services include assisting students with practicing interviewing with employers, finding externships to satisfy required clinical hours, vocational counseling, and leads for permanent employment.

What Does A Student Learn in Massage Therapy School?

The educational requirements for a massage therapist to obtain a certification not only include training in the practice of massage but also:

Anatomy – The biological science regarding locating, identifying, and describing the structures of the body.

Physiology – a branch of biology that focuses on understanding the body’s mechanisms at the cells, tissues, and organ systems.

Myology/Kinesiology – studies the mechanics of movement and how it impacts our health and wellbeing. Myology is the study of muscles, physical structure, specific function, and connections between each of the muscle groups.

Pathology – the study of disease causes and specific effects on biological tissues and fluids.

Hygiene – a set of practices that a person performed to preserve health that includes attention to surfaces clean and pathogen-free in the workplace.

First Aid/CPR – classes cover various ways to assist a person who is hurt, typically in an emergency, coupled with a focus on administering proper CPR to help someone experiencing cardiac arrest or stopped breathing.

Infection Control – a set of standard recommendations for reducing infectious agents’ transmission from body fluids or environmental surfaces. Infection prevention and control is vital to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases in health care settings.

What Types of Massage Do You Learn?

There are over 200 variants of techniques in massage therapy. Here are a few of techniques students learn when attending a massage therapy school:

Swedish – this technique adds flexibility to the ligaments and tendons, increases blood flow to the skin, stimulates the nervous system, and relieves stress. When placing pressure on the muscles and the skeletal system, the blood’s oxygen flow enhances, and muscle toxin removal elevates. Swedish massage also flushes out uric acid, lactic acid, and other harmful toxins from the tissue.

Shiatsu – with Shiatsu-style massage, the pressure gets applied through hand manipulation instead of needles. The vital force, chi, flows through connected channels in the body called meridians. Meridian blockages cause fatigue, pain, depression, and stress. In this massage therapy, the pressure applied to the meridians stimulates the nerves and tissues.

Reflexology – a form of massage manipulation that involves applying various amounts of pressure to the feet, hands, and ears. This type of massage releases blockages revitalizes the entire body. It restores a free flow of energy in specific areas by working on points within the hands and feet, helping blood circulation, detoxifying the blood, and proper nerve functioning.

Deep Tissue – a technique used to treat musculoskeletal problems, like strains from sports injuries, through applying sustained pressure involving deep, slow strokes targeting the muscles and the inner layers of connective tissue. During a deep tissue massage, discomfort, described as a “good hurt,” is normal and felt if there are general inconsistencies in the body tissue.

Sports – this technique, used to help athletes attain peak performance, helps diminish muscle fatigue, relieves swelling, and reduces tension. Therapeutic sports massage isn’t just for athletes anymore; it also treats soft tissue aches, and pain from injuries associated with everyday recreational activities. Sports massage incorporates other techniques to provide an in-depth and rehabilitating process. Sports massage gently works the soft tissue to prevent damage, rid the soft tissue of stress, and alleviate muscle and tendon pain.

Chair – the seated technique is a versatile yet highly effective massage technique, focusing on the back, shoulders, neck, arms, and head. On average, this massage lasts 15 minutes while the client is fully clothed and seated upright in a position that resembles sitting backward. This massage, ideal for instant stress relief when time and resources are limited, is designed to relax the muscles, improve flexibility, and ease movement.

Hot Stone – helps foster relaxation, melt away muscle pain, and relieve tension. Similar to Swedish massage, but with this technique a certified massage therapist uses heated stones combined with hand manipulations. Hot stone massage helps ease muscle tension, improves blood flow, alleviates pain, promotes relaxation, and relieves stress. During a hot stone massage, heated stones get placed on various areas around the body.

Aromatherapy – adds an emotional healing component to a massage session through the sense of smell, combining relaxing, gentle pressure with essential oils. During a session lasting 60 to 90 minutes, the client receives a full-body massage during which they inhale essential oils through a diffuser and the skin. Sometimes aromatherapy techniques will only focus on the back, shoulders, and head.

Trigger Point – benefits people who experience chronic pain, injuries, or a specific issue. These tight areas in the muscle tissues, known as trigger points, cause pain in various other body locations by focusing on applying pressure to particular trigger points. Trigger point utilizes broad, flowing, gentle strokes combined with more robust, deeper pressure.

Final Thoughts

Getting certified is the first step in your massage therapy career. You can start working for a massage salon or with a little experience you can go out on your own and begin a massage business. Once you become a certified massage therapist, the sky is the limit.

Did learning about how to become a certified massage therapist interest you? Want to learn more about a massage therapy program? Broadview University developed the Massage Therapy certificate program with your future in mind. The certificate program is designed to emphasize skills and knowledge for entry-level employment as a massage therapist. The Massage Therapy program at Broadview University prepares students to take the MBLEx licensing exam offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Board (FSMTB). Upon completion of the program, students will be eligible for professional membership in such associations as the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) and the Association of Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP).

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a massage therapist.

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