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How to Become a Massage Therapist

Have you wondered what the steps are to becoming a massage therapist? Here’s an article that can help!

How to Become a Massage Therapist

By: Scott Deidun, President and CEO of AMBI Massage School

Congratulations on taking the first step to joining one of the fastest-growing professions in the country! I have experienced the privilege of meeting thousands of massage therapy students over the past several years of my professional career. I have addressed several keys areas to consider as you search for massage therapy training programs.

What Massage Therapists Do

Massage therapists manipulate muscles and other soft tissues in the body using touch. Massage therapy is used to provide relief from chronic pain; to help patients recover from injuries, accidents, and surgical procedures; to improve blood circulation; to promote stress relief or increase relaxation; and as part of a person’s normal wellness regimen.

Exploring Your Possibilities of Becoming a Massage Therapist

To become a massage therapist, you would complete a postsecondary education program consisting of 500 or more hours of training. The massage profession is regulated at the state level, so standards and specific requirements vary. For instance, if you wanted to apply for your Virginia massage certification or Virginia massage therapy license, you would need to graduate from a state-approved school, pass a state licensing exam, and apply to the Virginia Board of Nursing for the credential.

As we are a massage school in northern Virginia, we also serve students who ultimately wish to become licensed massage therapists in Maryland or the District of Columbia. If you are a resident of another state, you are not required to attend massage school in DC, or massage school in Maryland to qualify for the licensing credential, simply check with your local massage therapy school to ensure they meet the requirements for massage training in your area.

What Are Common Personality Traits of a Massage Therapist?

I am often asked if I could identify some characteristics or personality traits that are common amongst massage professionals. The people you meet at a massage therapy school always have one primary unifying characteristic: the desire to help people feel better through the power of their meaningful touch! Many students looking for a school for massage therapy have been told for years, and even decades, that they have great hands. In addition, traits like being empathic, professional, and a great listener will serve you well in the profession.

Massage therapy is a unique profession for many reasons, and one of those reasons is the diversity of people you will meet while studying in massage school. Schools for massage therapy have people from all age ranges, economic backgrounds, education levels, ethnicities, countries of origin, employment backgrounds, and English as a second language students. It really is a wonderful mix of American culture and society!

Why You Should Consider a Career in Massage Therapy

As Americans are becoming more health-conscious and receiving regular massage therapy, tens of thousands of massage therapy careers are opening throughout the nation.

According to the United States Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, the “Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 22 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for all occupations. Continued growth in the demand for massage services will lead to new openings for massage therapists”.

Massage therapy is already a $10+ billion dollar a year industry. With so many rewarding positions available for massage therapists, there is an ever-increasing opportunity and need for prospective students to enter this dynamic career. Today massage therapists work in spas and clinics, medical and chiropractic facilities, hospitals and hospices, on cruise ships, gyms and local health clubs, wellness and rehabilitation centers, and as self-employed business owners.

The current massage profession is mostly female (current estimates are around 60-65%), educated beyond high school, coming from another profession and looking for a second career (especially moms). The massage profession also draws a lot of candidates that want to learn about health and alternative medicine, yoga instructors and personal trainers, people intrigued about the body, recent high school graduates, and candidates looking to enter the medical field. Massage therapy is a flexible career and a typical full-time therapist can expect to work between 27-30 hours per week as opposed to the traditional 40-45 (or more) hour work week for typical positions in America.

Full-time positions as a licensed massage therapist may include benefits such as medical and dental benefits, paid time off, and even 401(k)s. Please use the link below to see what the average income is for a massage therapist according to

Massage Therapy as a Gateway Career to Advanced Medical Training

I often refer to the massage therapy profession as a “Gateway Career”. Many students come to study in a northern Virginia massage school or massage program near them who are interested in more advanced medical training and furthering their education. These are students who are often interested in programs such as: nursing school; chiropractic school; and physical therapy programs. By attending massage therapy training, these students earn incredible related-field experience. In addition, the flexibility and great part-time income that massage therapy jobs provide can help them to offset some of their higher education costs. Having a credential from a state agency such as the Virginia Board of Nursing and some experience working as a licensed massage therapist may also provide a benefit when advanced medical training colleges are comparing candidates for admission.

How to Pick the Right Massage School Near Me

Choosing the right massage therapy schools in your area can be a big task. It is really important that you not only visit the campus, but potentially sit in on a live class for 15 – 30 minutes so that you can feel what it would be like to be a student in a massage therapy training program. Your campus visit may also include speaking with instructional staff, students in the program, chief administrators, and admissions staff. While at the school it is important to gather information about the curriculum, student support services such as tutoring, job placement assistance, and state licensing exam preparation. Nearly all states have a required minimum number of supervised hours of training (typically 500 or more) that are required to meet their standards, so please be aware that some online training courses may not help you towards your goal of becoming a licensed massage therapist.

Nearly all states have a required minimum number of supervised hours of training (typically 500 or more) that are required to meet their standards, so please be aware that some online training courses may not help you towards your goal of becoming a licensed massage therapist.

Massage therapy is traditionally considered a clock-hour program as opposed to a credit-hour program. Please check your local massage school or licensing board for further details.

Why Come to the AMBI Massage School?

The American Massage & Bodywork Institute (AMBI) was founded to provide an elite introduction and education to those who express an interest in helping others feel better through the power of touch. With many years of combined massage experience, the ownership team at AMBI shares the same vision: to enhance the student and alumni experience to provide the most talented and work-ready therapists in the country. The American Massage & Bodywork Institute will be establishing its education based upon the findings from the Coalition of national Massage Therapy Organizations announced in the publication of their Entry-Level Analysis Project (ELAP). The coalition is comprised of some of the most well-known and respected authorities, including:

  • Alliance for Massage Therapy Education (AFMTE)
  • American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA)
  • Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals (ABMP)
  • Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA)
  • Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB)
  • Massage Therapy Foundation (MTF)
  • National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB)

With the recommendations of this panel, combined with the experience of our ownership team, it is our goal to provide the best educational experience for each of our students, and to keep our alumni engaged in new developments in this dynamic industry.

At the American Massage & Bodywork Institute, we are truly committed to your success, as when you graduate and join the profession you are not only ambassadors of our school, but also ambassadors of massage therapy and all of the wonderful health and wellness benefits it provides.

The Program and Curriculum at AMBI

Our 700-hour, Massage Therapy Diploma program is currently offered in two convenient formats: a day program (Monday through Thursday) and a night/weekend program (Tuesday through Thursday, and Saturday). Our course is considered a hybrid design in that there is an online training component to the program in addition to our scheduled in-class time. This allows the students from our northern Virginia massage school the ability to complete the program in 7 months! Like many massage programs, AMBI Massage School will prepare you to take the MBLEx exam, which is administered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB), the licensing prerequisite examination recognized around the nation.

AMBI massage school in Vienna, Virginia covers the following curriculum topics. Our program is taught in a linear fashion as opposed to a modular system:

  • 27 hours of Massage Theory and Principles broken in to 4 key topic areas to include: Evolution of Massage and Bodywork; Research Literacy; Massage Benefits and Effects; Massage Cautions and Contraindications
  • 20 hours of Massage Professional Practices to include: Massage Equipment and Environment; Preventing Disease Transmission; Laws and Regulations; Personal Health, Body Mechanics, and Self-Care
  • 40 hours of The Therapeutic Relationship to include: The Relationship of Therapist and Client; Ethics and the Therapeutic Relationship; Boundaries in the Therapeutic Relationship
  • 80 hours of Anatomy, Physiology, and Pathology to include: Orientation of the Human Body; The Integumentary System; The Skeletal System; The Fascial System; The Muscular System; The Nervous System
  • 50 hours of Assessment and Documentation to include: Client Assessment; Documentation and Client Files
  • 175 hours of Massage and Bodywork Application to include: Foundation Principles and Skills; Massage and Bodywork Application Methods; The Massage or Bodywork Session; Western Integration of Application Methods
  • 71 hours of Palpation and Movement to include: Orientation to Palpation and Movement; The Shoulder and Arm; The Elbow, Forearm and Wrist; The Spine and Thorax, The Head, Neck and Jaw; The Pelvis and Hip; The Thigh and Knee; The Leg, Ankle and Foot
  • 105 hours of Adapting Sessions for Clients to include: Adapting Sessions for the Stages of Healing; Adapting Sessions for Clients with Common Pathologies; Adapting Sessions for Special Populations
  • 132 hours of Career Development to include: Interpersonal Skills; Student Clinic; Career Planning

The curriculum will include extensive training not only in massage, but in therapeutic relationships, professionalism, conflict resolution and ethics, something underemphasized by many massage schools in Virginia. Our education was designed based on the needs of the new therapist, the employer, and the consumer to ensure that graduates of the American Massage & Bodywork Institute will be more work-ready upon receiving their Virginia massage therapy license.

I Want More Information About Massage Schools in Northern VA

Great! Schedule your personal campus tour today by calling our campus at 571-620-7170. We look forward to supporting you as you explore the massage profession!

Location of AMBI Massage Therapy School

Our massage therapy school is located in Fairfax County, VA, in the Tysons Corner area. We are conveniently located right off Route 7 at Spring Hill Road. We’re close to Arlington VA as well. There is ample parking at our massage school in VA. For those taking the metro, please take the Silver Line right to Spring Hill Road and we are two blocks from the Metro Station.

AMBI Massage Therapy School Mission Statement

The American Massage & Bodywork Institute will attract and offer educational opportunities to individuals expressing interest in massage as a career. We will become active proponents in each of the communities in which we operate schools to educate the public on the benefits of massage therapy, both for the reduction of pain and stress relief as well as the overall health and wellness benefits it can provide.

The American Massage & Bodywork Institute will provide an elite introduction and education to those individuals who express a great interest in helping others feel better through the power of touch. The school will also offer continuing education opportunities to licensed massage therapists that wish to expand their education and improve their skill-set and knowledge in this industry. Please check back to our website for more details on our latest developments.

The American Massage & Bodywork Institute will keep current on new developments in this ever-changing industry. The American Massage & Bodywork Institute will provide a safe, nurturing environment and each of our new massage therapists will be able to build a strong foundation, so that each student will have the opportunity to thrive.

The American Massage & Bodywork Institute will remain compliant and up to date with all state requirements ensuring our students and alumni the resources required to build and maintain their professional careers.

You really can love what you do, and your journey to becoming a massage therapist starts at AMBI!

AMBI is certified to operate by the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). AMBI is located at 1593 Spring Hill Road Suite 210 (East Concourse), Vienna, VA 22182.

About the Author

Scott Deidun is the President and CEO of AMBI Massage School. Scott was formally the National Director of Career Services and Certification for a regional massage school system. Scott has been recognized for his job placement rates and was an inaugural winner of the Massage Envy “Excellence in Education” award.

Want to learn more? Get in touch with [email protected]. Or say hello on our contact page.