Massage therapy is a holistic practice that requires hundreds of hours of schooling and hard work to master. 

Once you become a massage therapist, your career will be open to endless financial opportunities, whether you choose to work with an existing business or start your own. 

With so many different specializations to choose from, there are always job opportunities in any region for new massage therapists. 

This guide will walk you through the process of becoming a massage therapist, from licensing to post-grad requirements, so that you can kickstart your new career. 

The Benefits of a Massage Therapy Career

Choosing a career in modern times can be difficult as many jobs feel bereft of meaning or purpose. One reason that many people choose medicine and massage therapy as a career is that you get to help people and see the results of your efforts firsthand. 

Overall, some of the best aspects of a massage therapy career include:

  • Using functional medicine to heal people (Massage therapy has been used for over 5,000 years
  • Immediate employment opportunities outside of school.
  • Great salary (Beginning salaries start at $49,860: US BLS)
  • Opportunities to start your own business. 
  • Lots of different specializations to choose from (ex., Traditional therapy, sports, medicine, etc.)

Massage therapy school is cheaper than a traditional college education and requires fewer hours than most common occupations to become licensed. To put this into perspective, Pennsylvania only requires 600 hours of coursework to become licensed in massage therapy, as opposed to 1,250 hours to become licensed in cosmetology [See: 5 Benefits of A Massage Therapy Career]. 

3 Steps to Becoming a Massage Therapist in Pennsylvania 

1. Choose an Accredited Massage Therapy School

  • Requires 600 Hours of Study Altogether
  • 250 Hours of Massage Theory, Practice, and hygiene
  • 175 Hours of Scientific Theory (e.g., Anatomy, Kinesiology, etc.)
  • 25 Hours of Ethics and Business Development
  • 150 Hours of Related Coursework

Pennsylvania requires formal massage therapy training at an accredited school. The curriculum and courses offered at these schools play a critical role in shaping your skills and knowledge about various massage techniques.

An effective program balances theoretical learning with hands-on practice, giving students both breadth and depth of understanding. In the classroom, you’ll delve into subjects like anatomy, physiology, pathology, kinesiology, ethics, and business practices, which form essential foundational knowledge for any budding therapist. 

You’ll also learn essential skills of massage therapy, including varying techniques and best hygiene practices. 

Therefore, choosing the right massage therapy school is essential to your success. 

2. Passing the MBLEx

Next, you’ll be required to complete the MBLEx exam, the official licensing exam of Pennsylvania. This exam includes 100 multiple-choice questions that touch on subjects you’ll learn during your study. 

Once you pass, you’ll be forced to register with the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB). To apply for a license, you must pay a $100 initial fee in Pennsylvania and a $175 renewal fee. 

3. Continuing Your Education

Before you officially acquire your new license, you will be required to complete at least 3 hours of  Board-approved coursework for continuing education. This requirement will increase to 24 hours when renewing your license after the date it expires. 

  • 16 hours must be in-person
  • 8 hours can be remote
  • 2 hours must be completed of child abuse recognition

Therapists are required to renew their licenses every two years. 

Additional Requirements for Becoming a Massage Therapist

So, you’ve decided to pursue a rewarding career in massage therapy. That’s fantastic. Before you begin your career in massage therapy, certain steps must be taken to guarantee success.

Background Checks 

To ensure that only qualified professionals enter the field, prospective therapists must pass a background check. This process varies from state to state but often includes fingerprinting and checking criminal history records. Don’t worry, though–it’s just one more way to ensure everyone gets the high-quality care they deserve.

Liability Insurance

Besides clearing background checks, all licensed massage therapists should carry liability insurance. It protects both practitioners and clients by covering potential claims related to professional services provided. Here is some useful information on how this works.

CPR Certification

In addition to passing your licensing examination, every therapist needs certification in Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR).

Joining a Massage Therapy Association

Beyond the licensing and practical requirements, consider joining a massage therapy association. These organizations offer numerous benefits for new massage therapists, including continuing education opportunities to keep your skills sharp, advocate for industry professionals at the legislative level, and create networking spaces where you can meet other practitioners.

Launching Your Career in Massage Therapy

Once you obtain your license, it’s time to start putting your hands to practice. 

1. Work for an Existing Practice

Get some experience in the field and establish a steady salary by working for an existing massage therapy practice. Some places you will be able to work for may include:

  • Spas
  • Healthcare Facilities
  • Chiropractors
  • Health Clubs
  • Gyms
  • Sports Teams

You can also work with various places, such as hotels, gyms, and airports, to offer onsite massages. 

2. Building a Client Base

One advantage of starting your career with an existing business is that it helps you build up client lists very quickly. 

Networking within the community is important, as past clients and word-of-mouth referrals can significantly boost clientele numbers.

In the digital age, establishing an online presence can be highly beneficial, too. Social media platforms like Instagram or Facebook let potential clients get to know you better before booking their first appointment. AMTA provides great advice on how to utilize social media as part of a successful promotional plan.

3. Nurturing Professional Relationships

Beyond growing clientele numbers, networking within the local wellness community can offer incredible opportunities, too. Collaborating with healthcare facilities such as chiropractic clinics or yoga studios could lead to lucrative partnerships that increase exposure and widen employment opportunities.

A significant portion of the massage community are self-employed therapists, so those wishing to become their own boss should consider this avenue. So, if you’ve always dreamt of being your own boss, this is certainly an avenue worth exploring.

However, running a successful business involves much more than just excellent therapeutic skills. It’s about maintaining professional standards and ensuring that all legal requirements are met, too.

FAQs: How to Become a Massage Therapist

Is it hard to be a massage therapist?

Being a massage therapist is challenging but rewarding. It demands physical stamina, in-depth knowledge of human anatomy, and excellent interpersonal skills.

Does Pennsylvania require a license for a massage therapist?

Yes, Pennsylvania mandates licensing for all practicing massage therapists. You must pass an approved exam and meet other state-specific requirements.

How long does it take to get a massage license in Pennsylvania?

It takes 600 hours minimum to complete coursework to become a massage therapist, as well as additional time required for continuing education and exams.