What Type of Degree Do You Need to be a Massage Therapist? | Broadview University

What Type of Degree Do You Need to be a Massage Therapist?

Students in class training to become a massage therapist

Interested in becoming a massage therapist but want to know what education you need to become licensed? You should know that you don’t have to attend a 4-year college to become a licensed massage therapist. All you need to do is complete a certification program at your local vocational school and pass the MBLEx licensing exam. This will allow you to apply for licensing from the city, county or state, depending on your community licensing practices. The massage therapy certification program will prepare you for the MBLEx licensing exam and get you started on your path to a new and exciting career.

The Steps to Becoming A Massage Therapist

As the demand grows for massage therapy, so does the need for high-quality, comprehensively educated and trained massage therapists who’ve earned a certification. However, achieving your massage therapy diploma takes dedication and work. There are four necessary steps to becoming a massage therapist.

Step #1: Complete an Accredited Massage Therapy Program

A prospective massage therapist needs to complete a certificate, degree, or diploma program at an accredited state-approved school. Accreditation of a program ensures the education provided meets the required quality training level. Also, most states require a minimum time of training. During a massage therapy program, you will study:

Kinesiology – Studies the mechanics of movement and how it impacts the body’s health and overall well-being.

Business preparation – Learn business strategies to run and market your massage therapy practice.

Physiology – Refers to the in-depth knowledge regarding the body’s systems’ inner workings to develop treatment strategies that are safe and effective.

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

Medical terminology – Medical terminology is the language used to describe the human body’s components and processes, medical procedures, diseases, disorders, and pharmacology. In simpler terms, it means the vocabulary that medical professionals use to refer to the body, what the body does, and the medical treatments prescribed in their particular field.

Step #2: Complete All Practical Requirements

Practical training means the opportunity to adapt and practice what you learn and develop skills professionally. Practical training in massage therapy aims to help you develop the massage skills that support professional studies, prepare you to receive a certification, pass the city, county or state exam, and, eventually, obtain employment. Each state has a required number of hands-on experience hours students must satisfy before getting their license. Practical training must be well-planned and adequately supervised through an externship or working at the school’s in-house massage clinic.

Step #3: Passing the State Licensing Examination

After completing the massage therapy education program, students need to pass a licensing exam. Massage school graduates take a specialized exam created by the state known as Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination or MBLEx. The MBLEx is a 100-question test requires completion in just under two hours. Areas covered by this exam include kinesiology, ethics, client assessments, and massage’s physiological effects.

Step #4: Apply for State Licensure

Requirements to obtain a massage therapist license vary from state to state. Prospective massage therapists must put in an application and prove that they satisfied the licensure requirements. Those who want to pursue a massage therapy career find information regarding each state’s licensing guidelines on the American Massage Therapy Association’s website, otherwise known as the AMTA.

Types of Massage Techniques

A little-known fact, there are many different variants of techniques in massage therapy, with new ones in development all the time. Here are some techniques you’ll learn when attending a massage therapy program:

Swedish Massage

This technique adds flexibility to the ligaments and tendons, increases blood flow to the skin, stimulates the nervous system, and relieves physical stress. By placing pressure on the muscles and the skeletal system, you enhance the client’s blood oxygen flow and elevate the muscles’ toxin removal. The Swedish massage further helps flush out uric acid, lactic acid, and other harmful toxins from the body tissue.


Shiatsu massage is a combination of Chinese medicines and acupressure. The pressure gets applied through hand manipulation instead of the use of needles. The vital force, termed as chi, flows through connected channels in the body called meridians. Blockages within those channels cause fatigue, pain, depression, and stress, the root cause of diseases. In this massage therapy, step by step pressure, applied to the meridians’ pressure points, stimulates the nerves and tissues, and enhances chi’s flow in those meridians.


During reflexology therapy, blockages get released, healing and revitalizing the entire body. Free flow of energy gets restored in specific areas by working on points within the hands and feet. The free-flowing energy helps blood circulation, detoxification of the blood, and proper nerve functioning.

Deep Tissue Massage

Deep tissue is 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 Massage

This technique, used to help athletes attain peak performance, helps diminish muscle fatigue, relieves swelling, and reduces tension. However, 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 massage techniques to provide an in-depth and rehabilitating process that manipulates the soft tissue to prevent damage, rid the soft tissue of stress, and alleviate muscle and tendon pain.

Chair Massage

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

Hot Stone Massage

Hot stone massage helps bolster relaxation, relieve muscle pain, and release tension. This technique is a type of therapeutic massage similar to a Swedish massage, but you will use heated stones combined with hand manipulations. Hot stone massage eases muscle tension, improves blood flow, alleviates pain, promotes relaxation, and relieves stress. During a hot stone massage, heated stones are placed on various areas of the body. You will also hold a stone as you massage different parts of the body utilizing the Swedish techniques.


Aromatherapy adds an emotional healing component to the massage 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. Various essential oils are available for aromatherapy and typically depend upon the client’s issue or preference.

Trigger Point Massage

Trigger point benefits people who experience chronic pain, injuries, or a specific issue. Sometimes areas of tightness in the muscle tissues, known as trigger points, cause pain in various other body locations by focusing on applying pressure to specific trigger points. Trigger point massage utilizes broad, flowing, gentle strokes combined with more robust, deeper pressure. The technique includes the entire body or focuses on specific areas of your client’s body that need to be released depending on the purpose of the client’s visit.

A Day in The Life of a Massage Therapist

A typical day for a massage therapist is anything but ordinary. In addition to massage, you help assess the range of motion and muscle strength of a client or propose client therapy plans. Other tasks include:

  • Confer with clients regarding medical history and health problems.
  • Determine what course of treatment that will benefit the client.
  • Maintain treatment records.
  • Possibility of traveling to clients’ office or home.
  • Provide clients with guidance and information about postural improvement techniques.
  • Recommend home routines for stretching, strengthening, relaxation, and rehabilitation exercises.
  • Perform other adjunctive therapies or treatment techniques.

Various Work Settings

While massage therapists work in various work environments, sole practitioners account for the biggest group of practicing massage therapists. Of this group, most work part of their time in a client’s home, business, or corporate facility, while a few work in a health care setting, in a spa setting, or out of their home. Other places therapists work:

  • Hospitals
  • Wellness centers
  • Nursing homes
  • Hospice
  • Chiropractic offices
  • On-site seated massage (airports, malls, public events)
  • Health clubs
  • Fitness centers
  • Sports teams
  • Hotels
  • Spas
  • Salons
  • Cruise ships
  • Resorts

Why Become a Massage Therapist?

Massage therapy is projected to grow 21 percent from 2019 to 2029, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. More and more healthcare providers understand the benefits, increasing the demand for these services to become part of a patient’s holistic treatment plan.

Final Thoughts

When you graduate from an accredited program, receive your certification, diploma or degree, pass your MBLEx exam and gain a license, you become a licensed professional in one of the country’s most in-demand careers. This career offers job availability in multiple related specialty areas, like sports massage, prenatal and infant massage therapy, and Swedish massage to name a few. Being a massage therapist is a lucrative, flexible, and rewarding career path. Once you are licensed, the sky’s the limit.

Now that you know you can become a licensed massage therapist with a certification, diploma or degree, 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.