So you put yourself through massage therapy school, added some professional experience to your resume and today, you can proudly say there’s a crowd of devout clients who turn to you for their massage needs. But is there a “next step” to make you an even better massage therapist? There sure is.
Education can continue even after you earn your massage therapy degree. From board certification to extra training in your favorite specialty, there are many ways you can go above and beyond massage therapy school.
You’ve heard of board certified physicians. In the same way, becoming a board certified massage therapist means more than a fancy certificate. The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) administers the certifications. It says board certification is the highest attainable level in the profession.
Board Certification Requirements:
- Take and pass the board certification exam
- Complete a minimum of 750 hours of education
- The hours from your massage therapy program
- Any continuing education taken from NCBTMB approved providers
- Any courses taken from any accredited college or university*
- Complete 250 hours of professional hands-on experience over no less than six months from graduation
- Pass a thorough national background check
- Obtain a current CPR certification
- Affirm their commitment to the NCBTMB Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics
- Commit to opposing human trafficking
You’ll also need to be re-certified every two years, which is much easier than the initial certification.
*Please see NCBTMB requirements for specific accreditation guidelines
Think beyond your basic education. Specialty certifications will take you to the next level as a massage therapist.
Maria Leonard is a massage therapist and the dean of education at Minnesota School of Business campus in Plymouth, MN. She helped develop the massage therapy curriculum for the diploma and A.A.S as the network dean of massage therapy. Leonard said every massage therapist has a set of skills they are working with.
“Usually a massage therapist will specialize in one or two techniques and they will continually hone their skills in those techniques,” said Leonard.
Liddle Kidz provides training, workshops and education courses specialized in pediatric touch. Not only can you get certified in infant and pediatric massage, but you can take courses in touch therapy for children with autism, childhood cancer, pediatric trauma, cerebral palsy and many more.
You can find a list of approved Continuing Education providers through NCBTMB or locate the NCBTMB’s “Approved Provider” stamp for an pproved provider for continuing education.
Shortlist of Specialties:
- Geriatric Massage
- Oncology Massage
- Infant and Child Massage
- Orthopedic Massage
- Fitness and Sports Massage
- Holistic Massage
- Hospital Massage
- Thai Massage
- Prenatal Massage
- Hot Stone Therapy
- Arthritis, Fibromyalgia Massage
Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine
While there is no doctorate program for massage therapy, there is one in naturopathic medicine. Naturopathic physicians don’t focus solely on massage therapy, but they do believe in natural methods of healing and physical medicine like massage and bodywork.
It’s not uncommon to find an ND who is also an LMT. According to the Association of Accredited Naturopathic Medical Colleges, doctors of naturopathic medicine learn all the modalities of proven natural therapies, including massage.
NDs will study courses similar to medical doctors, like biomedical sciences, anatomy and biochemistry. Before you even apply to a naturopathic medical school, you will need your bachelor’s degree. Next, you’ll need to attend a four-year, graduate-level naturopathic medical school. The first two years will be spent in the classroom and the last two in a clinic setting. NDs can also choose to complete residencies after graduation (except in Utah, where it is required). Like any education, make sure to choose an accredited medical school.