Massage Therapist Training Curriculum

Congratulations!  You’ve made the decision to become a massage therapist.  You may have an idea of the places you can work as a masseuse.  You’re probably thinking you will also need to receive some type of training so that you learn how to properly give a massage, since there are different types of massage.  It’s not all about rubbing on someone’s shoulders or back.  You might be wondering what you can expect to learn in your massage therapy schooling.  Well, you’ve come to the right place.  You will need to obtain formal training and education before you are eligible to become a certified massage therapist.  Continue reading to learn about the basic curriculum for your massage therapist course of study.

To become a practitioner of massage therapy, you will need to receive instruction in the following areas:

Body Systems (anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology).  Approximately 125 hours of training is needed in the areas of anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology.  Anatomy, the study of the human body, is where you will learn about the muscles and their insertion points, range of movement, and the impact they have on the body’s other structures.  Physiology is the study of the functions and vital processes of organs and their systems.  As a massage therapist, you will be taught how to manipulate joints and muscles.  Kinesiology will teach you about movement, since you will need to know how to properly treat muscles and joints.

Massage and bodywork assessment, theory and application.  This area represents the meat of your training requirement, at approximately 200 hours.  Many of the techniques that you will learn have been around for thousands of years.  You will learn how to use your hands, fingers, elbows, and feet in your classroom under the supervision of a professional.  When a client comes to you with a description of their problem, it may not always be complete or well formed.  You will have to learn how to use that information, along with an assessment of their physical status, in order to determine what is plaguing them.  From that point, you will have to confirm that hypothesis and develop and action plan.

Pathology.  Pathology is the study of disease.  You will need to obtain roughly 40 hours of instruction in this area.  Since massage therapy may not always be the answer, having a solid foundation and understanding of pathology will help you determine when the assistance of other health practitioners is needed.

Business and Ethics.  10 hours of your 500 hour minimum will be in the areas of business and ethics.  Being a massage therapist is not all about providing massage therapy services.  As a massage therapist, you will be granted access to an extremely personal part of a person’s body.  Many other professionals are not granted access to the personal space of clients.  As such, it is your responsibility to make good decisions and build a strong ethical core.  Even if you choose not to go into business for yourself, you will still need some level of business education.  The more organized you are, the more prosperous you will be in your career.  The end result is that you will reap great financial rewards from mastering the business side of the industry, as well as the theoretical side.

You will also obtain additional instruction, of roughly 125 hours, in an area or related field that theoretically completes the massage program of study.

As mentioned earlier, a minimum of 500 hours of instruction in the aforementioned topics is required to be eligible for certification by the National Certification Board of Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

The certification exams are offered by the NCBTMB.  There are two exams offered: the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM) and the National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB).  Both of these exams have similar content areas.  The difference lays in a slight variation of the percentages weights for each content area.  The content areas you can expect to be tested on are listed below:

  • General knowledge of body systems
  • Detailed knowledge of anatomy, physiology and kinesiology
  • Pathology
  • Therapeutic assessment
  • Therapeutic application
  • Professional standards, ethics, business and legal practices

Your training to become a certified massage therapist will cover a lot of material.  You will learn about body systems, theory and application of massage, pathology, and business & ethics.  You will also learn how to use tools and other supplies properly.  Your training will give you the knowledge to sit for and pass the certification exam offered by the NCBTMB.  Training, combined with other skills, will help you become a great masseuse.  Make sure you check out other articles to learn more about how to become a massage therapist.