Massage Therapy Schools and Programs

Become a pain relief and relaxation professional

Pain relief is always in demand and thousands of students answer the call each year by becoming trained massage therapists. It's one area of alternative or complimentary healthcare that's not just sought out by patients, but often recommended to them by their doctors and other health care providers - making it a career with an excellent employment outlook.

Fed up with using steroids and painkillers to calm inflammation and numb muscle and joint pain, (which can be caused by stress, strains, injuries or conditions such as fibromyalgia) the public is increasingly relying on the healing touch of massage therapists. Some clients just want a chance to relax, others choose to use massage as a preventative treatment.

How long will it take?

Massage therapy programs are offered through technical and trade schools, at career or community colleges and through professional associations.

  • Certificates in general massage therapy can be obtained in under a year by taking classes full-time. If classes are taken part-time, these programs will take several years to complete.
  • Advanced programs can include training in more types or modalities of massage, a clinical or work-placement portion or the chance to transfer credits towards a health science degree. These training programs are generally full-time and take up to three years to complete.
  • A diploma program in a specific type or modality of massage may take several weeks or months depending on the frequency of classes. Taken alone, though, a diploma program won't allow graduates to become certified massage therapists.

If you're not sure what you're interested in, introductory courses lasting only a few sessions can help in the decision making process.

Whatever training you decide on, make sure it will provide you with everything you need for a successful career. Depending on requirements in the state you'll be working in, some programs just won't cut it. If you want to become licensed or have the potential to further your education later, choosing the right massage therapy school is essential.

Skills and requirements

A massage therapist begins by interviewing their patient about pain, desired outcome of the treatment and medical history. They then decide what technique will be best suited and have the patient lie down on a table or sit in a massage chair. Oils, lotions and creams may be used depending on the massage technique being performed.

Traits that make for a successful massage therapy career:

For most massage therapists, developing a loyal client base is the only way they'll earn a living. At the same time they must take care of themselves and not undertake too much work or they'll become strained and fatigued, possibly requiring the very service they provide.

  • Communication - Therapists must listen to their patients and be able to answer any questions about their techniques.
  • Empathy and understanding - Some patients will be suffering from chronic pain.
  • Manual dexterity - Massage is physically demanding and precise work.
  • Proper technique - Therapists may be injured or cause injury if improper technique is applied.

Possible courses

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • Kinesiology
  • History and theory
  • Techniques
  • Assessment
  • Ethics
  • Business

Massage techniques
There are over 80 different massage modalities. Many therapists specialize in several. Some broader schools are as follows.

Oriental therapies

These ancient massage forms often follow the concept of unblocking pressure or energy points in the body similar to those assumed in the practice of acupuncture.

  • Acupressure
  • Shiatsu


Healing or restorative benefits such as lymph node drainage, stress and pain relief, or help with a physical disorder can be attained through therapeutic massage.

  • Aromatherapy
  • Manual Lymph drainage


These masseuse services are strictly for rest and relaxation purposes and do not deal with chronic pain or promise therapeutic benefits.

  • Facial massage
  • Swedish massage


Pain caused by tension, muscle spasms and scar tissue can be relieved through these types of massage. The focus is more on function than the spirituality that can come packaged with other modalities.

  • Deep connective tissue massage
  • Myofascial release

Some modalities are client-specific and can include massaging infants, senior citizens and even animals.

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