Certified massage therapy schools are schools that have been certified and accredited by a national or programmatic accreditation organization supported by the federal government to provide training and education to students following their principles and guidelines in order to be a certified massage therapist within the massage therapy industry.
There are organizations that certify students and then there are accreditation organizations that certify massage therapy schools. Only accredited and certified massage therapy schools provide the proper educational training for massage therapists to become board-certified.
Why is Certification Necessary?
Unless you only plan on doing massage as a hobby you will need to be certified in order to practice massage therapy almost anywhere in the United States. There are a few different organizations that provide certification for massage therapists.
The state that you live in will determine which organization you will need to use to write your certification exams to become state licensed and nationally certified.
The website Massage Practice Exams provides a great listing of which exams you can take based on the state that you are located in.
It also lists the amount of continuing education units that you will need to keep your certification up-to-date from year-to-year.
National Certification Bodies
Certified massage therapy schools will ensure that you are ready to take your national certification.
There are three major certification exams from two national certification organizations. The two national bodies are the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards (FSMTB).
The NCBTMB offers two different national certification exams:
- The National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM)
- The National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB)
The NCETMB includes complementary alternative medicine assessment and application questions making it a more thorough examination. The NCBTMB organization and its exams were the original certification examinations for nationally certified and now board-certified massage therapists since the industry was professionalized.
The FSMTB offers one exam for national certification:
- Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx)
The FSMTB is a new organization made up of state massage therapy governing bodies that came together to offer an alternative to NCBTMB. One of the reasons for doing so was to offer an option that certified and licensed massage therapist at the same time requiring only one test for state licensing. Although relatively new, FSMTB has made significant inroads and is offered as an alternative to the NCBTMB examinations in 40 states as well.
Your decision on which certification exam to take could depend on which style of test you want to take, the difference in cost between the two examinations and the ease of licensing from FSMTB examinations versus the NCBTMB examination’s higher perceived recognition. The benefits to your career from individual certification can lead to a very successful career.
Benefits of Individual Certification
There are many benefits to being certified as a massage therapist besides the actual state licensing requirements that most states have in order to work as a massage therapist. These benefits were developed and monitored during the early professionalization stages of the massage therapy industry.
These benefits include:
- With national certification it places the practitioner on par with other professionally certified health care providers.
- Gives a competitive edge.
- Informs employers and consumers of your credentials.
- Provides an awareness of the commitment to safe and ethical practice.
- Increases employment opportunities within communities and across state lines.
- Reimbursement by some insurance companies is given
- Increases visibility and credibility.
- Allows for listing in the NCBTMB national register and practitioner locator service.
It was recognized early in the massage therapy industry’s quest for professionalization that certification requirements for individual massage therapists needed to be standardized and that education providers also needed to be accredited in order to provide the standardized education.
What is Accreditation?
In order to be individually certified through the national certification exam process it is advised that you attend a certified massage therapy school. The schools have been accredited by a federal department for education accreditation to ensure the quality that they provide are up to industry standards for education providers.
Educational accrediting bodies are overseen and recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The US Department of Education is required by law to nationally recognize accredited institutions that have proven themselves worthy of accreditation for higher education according to certain principles and guidelines laid out by the Department of Education. The Department of Education and CHEA do not themselves accredit individual massage therapy schools but rely on accrediting organizations to do so.
An accrediting body within the United States provides certain requirements that an educational provider institution must abide by in order to grant degrees, certifications, or diplomas. Within the massage therapy industry certified massage therapy schools fall under two general categories.
The first category is traditional educational institutions like community colleges or universities providing certificate or associate degree programs in massage therapy. The second category is traditional vocational institutes that cater specifically to an industry, career, or profession, such as massage therapy.
The first category of schools is usually accredited by a national accrediting organization or one of the six major regional accrediting bodies, whereas vocational institutes tend to be accredited by specific programmatic accreditation bodies such as The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).
Certified Massage Therapy Schools
To reiterate it is of utmost importance if you want to be a professional massage therapist in the United States or Canada to attend an accredited massage therapy program, institution, or school that provides proper preparation for your national certification exam through the NCBTMB exam process or the FSMTB exam process.
Most educational providers in the massage therapy industry are accredited; however, to ensure that you find one that is certified and accredited you can check here: Massage Practice Exams, or here: COMTA.
When checking the Massage Practice Exams website be sure to visit on the desired school’s website and confirm that they are accredited which will usually be listed under the About Us section or displayed prominently on the Homepage.
Being a certified massage therapist is a very rewarding career that provides excellent potential as long as you attend accredited schools and receive board certification.
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