Are Online Massage Therapy Schools Legitimate?

Online massage therapy schools are an alternative learning option for adult students, students with family obligations and students with other work commitments.

Not only is online learning gaining prevalence in society today it is actually being hailed as a better way to learn, according to several studies published in popular sources such as the New York Times.  In most cases this is true, but for hands on medical training like massage therapy, there still needs to be a hands-on component.

This page will outline the differences between traditional learning with actual classes and online learning, the benefits and disadvantages of both and what to expect from these types of schools.

Online Learning

A study mentioned in the New York Times called “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning: A Meta-analysis and Review of Online Learning Studies” found here, suggests that students learning through an online portal do better than in traditional face-to-face instruction. The study was conducted in different settings in colleges and adult learning programs of various kinds including medical and military training.

The reasons behind the increased efficacy of online learning stems mainly from the increased tailoring of the program to the individual’s learning habits. Online programs are more interactive than before with online chat systems, notice boards, web-based video tutorials and other collaboration tools.

These alone give the individual a better ability to learn at their own pace, reviewing and learning the material as much or as little as they need. Furthermore, when they require further explanations or help they can get a one on one focus through chat and instant message portals. Some even provide video conferencing.

Early in its development, online learning critics suggested that it would take away from the learning experience that we need to learn in a community. Yet, with the move towards large online social educational forums in these online schools, it is actually helping stimulate students helping students.

These online collaboration tools help students form an online community within each class, course, level or program linking knowledge and sharing it at a far greater speed than traditional classrooms could.

Advantages of Online Education

  • Flexibility– besides mandated time-specific webinars, you can complete your coursework on your own schedule usually.
  • Teacher Access – through instant messaging, email and community forums teacher access is generally higher than in traditional schools.
  • Exciting Content – tired of boring lectures? Online learning provides a variety of learning formats from online surveys, questions and quizzes to interactive webinars and video tutorials to conference discussions and community forums to participate in.

Traditional Learning

Learning massage therapy online unfortunately can only take you so far.  A massage therapy certification from the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB) requires you meet the individual state’s requirement for hands on training. This national certification requires 750 hours of education and 250 hours of hands on experience no more than 6 months from graduation.

The 250 hours of hands on experience is the portion of the learning experience that obviously cannot be done at home while sitting on your computer. This will require an actual hands-on learning experience that is best done either in an accredited program or under the guiding hands of a professional.

Many advocates of massage training online suggest that interactive demonstration videos can accomplish this. We disagree. The hands on component of your massage therapy curriculum should be one that is performed in person.

Note: There is no replacement for in-person practical experience even when attending accredited massage therapy schools online

Disadvantages of Online Learning

  • Attention – in a formal classroom teachers keep the classrooms attention by direct interaction, staring at a computer can lull a person’s attention span.
  • Face-to-face – body language can provide up to 80% of communication between teacher and student. This could provide clues to massage instructors as to a student’s limitations or issues, not noticeable in an online setting unless there’s proper video conferencing.
  • More Time – a student could actually take more time to learn an online course because of their specific learning style than in-class lectures.
  • Procrastination – the more independence gained from online learning is not always a bonus, as it can lead to missed learning and skipped assignments leading to a possible higher failure rate.

The benefits and disadvantages to learning online are apparent, especially within the massage therapy profession.

Blended Learning

Blended learning is currently the accepted norm in professional massage therapy schools that purport online learning be a part of the learning process.

This blend of online and traditional classes allows students to gain flexibility in their schedule without giving up the most important part of the learning process for massage therapy, hands on learning. Online massage therapy schools still usually contain a traditional component.

Blended Breakdown

Most schools now offer some form of a blended program for massage therapy, even if it is in addition to their full-time traditional offering.  The blended programs offer:

  • Some percentage of online coursework to be completed from 25% up to 100% of the required coursework to be done online.
  • Generally, 100% of the required hands-on requirement is still done on-site at the school or at the placement after completion of the educational component.
  • Some schools also offer some forms of away from school learning for the hands-on component, where you would be under the tutelage of a recognized, certified and qualified teacher in your location for the hands-on portion.

This blended program usually offers some sort of cost-savings over traditional full class programs, while at the same time offering flexibility and hands-on experience resulting in what most believe to be the best of both worlds.

Avoiding Massage Therapy Programs that are 100% Online

It should be noted that schools offering 100% online education for massage therapy are in the minority and those that offer online hands-on instruction are considered ill-advised. The NCBTMB requires “professional hands on” experience in order to qualify for certification.

Although you can possibly learn hands-on techniques online at your own pace from online instruction, it may not be accepted for certification purposes. Make sure that when you look for a blended, traditional, or mostly online school for your program that you consider the requirements properly for certification as it will affect your career path and timeline.

Summary

Online Massage Therapy schools are on the rise. Online learning in general is on the rise and its benefits are well proven out. However, there are still challenges that arise particularly in hands-on fields such as massage therapy.

It is always considered better to learn the hands-on portion directly from the program school or outside under professional guidance rather than trying to do it alone or through online teaching aides.


Want to Multitask? Watch this article in video format or simply play it in the background and listen to it while you work away

Neal Lyons is a founding member and volunteer contributor at the MTSI Institute, an information based portal dedicated to guiding and assisting aspiring massage therapists establish a successful career in massage. Neal is a published author and has collaborated on several mobile applications that serve the massage profession. You can view his published work on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Sony and Kobo. You can connect with him on Facebook, Twitter and on Google+

Posted in Online Schools
51 comments on “Are Online Massage Therapy Schools Legitimate?
  1. Vivian Olson says:

    Am eager to attend online massage therapy but some opinions say I should attend a physical school which I have no time for. I need to know if you offer US accredited and approved by the California massage therapy council? How would I go about getting started if all my questions have been answered. You offer grants which is great!

  2. Karen Buena says:

    I was told that a person can do relaxation massages without a license. Is that true?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      sure, many do. but you cannot practice as a licensed massage therapist without a license. tell us more clearly about your situation. are you in a commercial business space offering and charging for relaxation massages? how did you learn how to give a relaxation massage? what State are you in?

  3. Claudia Garza says:

    I am interested in online courses, but am a bit worried on how I would go about getting my hands on accreditation. Can you please guide me in the right direction?

    Thanks

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Accreditation has to do with whether a school is eligible as well as the passing of certain exams. Massage programs need a hands on component as part of the process. Go through our massage school checklist and it will walk you through the entire process step by step.

    • Stacey clarett says:

      I’m in start of Ohio Youngstown, I would like online and hands on accredited school

  4. Frances Botkin says:

    Hi I am on line with US Career Institute are they a Accredited School for Massage Therapy in VA?

  5. Kristen White says:

    I am looking into online massage therapy schools and know a professional massage therapist who is willing to let me shadow and train under her. Would the hours spent with her count for my “hands on time” if it is logged and submitted?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Kristen, in most cases it will not. however you can try having this discussion with the school you are considering. it is always a good idea to shadow, regardless of whether you are to receive educational credit for it.

  6. Misty says:

    Neal,
    Here in KS there is no licensing requirements. However, I am a military spouse and move from time to time. Attending a brick and mortar school is impossible with having to juggle the kids, work and his deployment schedule. I love my current career, and only want to offer 3-4 massages a week. A friend of mine is an esthetician and has a shop, she works by appointment only. She offered use of one of her rooms, so I’m not looking to gain employment. I want this to be a additional skill that I can use to bridge any gaps between moves and to provide services by appointment only. After reading through the posts, I believe you can offer some sound advice. I’m wondering if an online school is the best choice or do I just use instructional web based sessions to learn specialized techniques while in KS. Then once we move gain any additional schooling needed for that state? I desire a very knowledgeable program either way because I will not offer any services until I feel well educated. I also desire the A&P knowledge.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Misty – our recommendation would be to follow the requirements in the State you are in now, and then worry about the requirements of another State when you move. the reason is that most states are going to be similar in what the require / expect. eventually with all the moves you will have done enough to meet every State’s requirement as they are not much different from each other. with all that said, the online piece will grant you some of what it takes to sit for the exam. the remainder is hands on, practical training. while you may not need that currently. you will later in a jurisdiction where a license is a requirement. does this help?

  7. Christian Alamore says:

    Do the hands on hours ha e to be in a school or can it be done by a LMT and just documented?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Christian – they have to be in a school with an approved supervisor so you can get the credit for it. You can make alternative arrangements but you will have to work with the provider and the State board on a “one-off” basis to ensure you have pre approval prior to investing your time.

  8. Kylae Howard says:

    I Physically attended a Massage school in Michigan and passed the Mblex, however, I relocated to Texas very shortly after and never completed the amount of “hands on hours” needed for an official graduation. The school I attended, required more than the number of hours required by Michigan, so that in the event someone moved they would still comply with any state guidelines. With that said, Will I be able to attend an online school, and submit my transcripts from Michigan and Texas-Online, along with my mblex score and apply for my license?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Kylae – yes for the classroom portion you will be able to. however since you have not taken the hands on portion, you will still need to complete that part of the process. before you enroll in a school, make sure you contact the TX state board and ensure that your time in the school of your choice will count toward your license requirements in TX.

  9. Michelle Mathis says:

    I’m currently a RN working towards my NP. I would like to specialize in pain management inclusive of massage therapy. I need the convenience of on-line classes with local hands-on training from an accredited school. I’m in WV and am unaware of any schools in the state that fit the bill. Any information is appreciated!

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Michelle – we have experienced in some cases that students are able to discuss this with the State board and obtain an arrangement/permission where a student can select an online school of their choice and subsequently select a hands on school of their choice. try searching our database / search box. it doesn’t hurt to request information from the school and ask them first hand as well whether they have made similar arrangements for others in the past working in conjunction with the state board. when possible, leverage previous experience and this will avoid recreating the wheel and putting in more time than necessary.

  10. Olakunle Afolabi says:

    I’m a potential online interested client living in Lagos,Nigeria.I did a little bit of therapy/massage sessions at New York Dept. of Correction,Probation Dept.,Staten Island,New York,thru Court order for violation of probation,in 1994.Since then i’v been practising physio/massage therapies as a profession.This is 22 years ago and right now,i’v been supporting myself and family living on a good daily income here in Lagos.However, how can i get hands on massage tutoring b4 i can get certified by ur accredited institution?Pls advise.Also,there are no schools here in Nigeria and if by chance it could be started, i would be glad if i would be part of the success story.Nigeria is the world’s most populated black nation with a population of about 200 million people,thus a tremendous financial prospect is to be projected.These are 2 proposals which i am expecting a response.Thanks and best regards. OLAKUNLE AFOLABI

  11. SK says:

    Neal, I was a massage therapist from Philippines. Now I’m in the US do you think I can just take an online class to get A certification without going through hands on training?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      SK – the only way to really ensure is to ask the State you are in. however generally international credentials are not all accepted in the USA from a reciprocity standpoint

  12. Lanie D says:

    20myears ago I was trained by a CMT who had graduated with 2500 hours. I was a struggling artist (who could not afford school or time away from income producing work), and the CMT had too many clients to be able to keep up with. It was a win win for both of us. The training lasted for 6 months (and included book learning from all of his training materials as well as hundreds of hours of hands on training) as I continued to pick up more and more of his excess clients. It was the old fashioned “learn the trade as a dedicated apprentice” route. I’ve had an extremely successful massage practice since then (and even pay full taxes on my income as “health and wellness”). After 20 years and literally thousands of clients (including a number of regulars who teach massage therapy at accredited schools and just assume that my training was in an accredited program because of my skill level and knowledge), I am very happy with my career. But it does bother me that I don’t have that certification paper up on the wall. I have no interest in ever working for other people or at a spa – I make much more with my own client base. I’m good and I consider myself highly trained, and continue to keep up on expanding my knowledge of physiology, modalities, holistic health, etc. I’m currently supporting someone who is in grad school full time (and will be for the next four years), so going to school full time or part time will hit us hard income wise. Is there any path for someone like me who’s had a more than 20 year successful career in this, and just didn’t happen to get my training in a building with a sign on it that says massage school? The idea of having to pay thousands of dollars and invest 500 hours to learn what I’m already doing sort of kills me. But after 20 years, it would be nice to have a legitimate “CMT” after my name, and that piece of paper on the wall. Oh, and I split my time between Los Angeles, New York and Louisiana.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      thank you for sharing your story Lanie. seems like you are doing well. what are your plans in the future? what is the end state / what is it that you’d like to be doing in 3-5 years?

      • Lanie D says:

        I’d like to continue working for my own client base. But as with any business you are always smart to continue use to build new clientele.

  13. Nichole Fausey says:

    Massage school with online book work is what I’m seeking

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Nichole, use our search database to find schools near you. Many allow online coursework with the hands on portion to be completed in a partnered venue near you or at the school

  14. Sherry StClair says:

    I graduated from Baltimore School of Massage in 2000. I have 600 hours and my certificate, however I haven’t practiced for some years. How can I go about becoming certified and is online the best avenue for me to take. I still have all text books and massage literature. Also I still have my table.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Sherry, if you have not done the hands on training, you will have to complete that part as well. You should read the requirements in the state you want to practice in and then ensure you have the appropriate number of class and hands on hours before applying. Requirements have changed since 2000 in most states.

  15. Julie says:

    I have been looking for massage therapy schools, an this will be the first time on line school. And I’m very interested in massage therapy, my family friends encourage me in going back to school for online massage therapy, since I have busy life. But I have a supportive family that believes me that I wanna go back to school for massage therapy ,and I practice on my family an friends.

  16. Elizabeth says:

    I received my 1000 hour massage therapy certificate in 2004 but allowed my license to lapse. I am needing to take the MBlex exam to get my license again but am finding self study challenging due to the many years that have passed. My hands on treatments are good but need the book learning to prepare me for the exam. Do you have recommendations for online learning programs that can help prepare me for the exam?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Elizabeth – there are several prep courses out there, but unfortunately we have not spent the time to do our due diligence to be comfortable enough recommending a particular one. with that said, you have given us a good idea to pursue. which one did you end up going with? how did you like/find it?

  17. Sheila Racicot says:

    I am wanting to become a certified masseuse in the state of Missouri. However, there are no school close to where I live. I would have to drive a hour and a half one way; which is impossible for me. I am a mom of two and homeschool. Also my son also has a lot of dr appointments that he can not miss; I am the only one that can take him I have no help in that department. So my question is- Is a online Certification an option for me? As far as the hands on I don’t know what would be possible since there is nothing close to where I live except maybe an internship if that would be acceptable? Any information or advise you could give me I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you for your time.

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Sheila, very interesting question. Contact your State Board and determine whether what you propose can be accepted. Supervised work under a licensed professional at times is acceptable. That said, have you gauged the demand for massage therapy in your area? It is difficult to imagine an area with healthy demand but no supply. Online schools are definitely a good way to start. Your challenge will be getting the “hands on” piece.

  18. Jenny ribbans says:

    Hello, I’m jenny. I’m
    A single mother of a special needs child. I have contacted some of the local schools and they require 4 hours a day and I’m not able to specifically go during those hours, even in the evenings, as I don’t have childcare. Should I just look into another career path?

    • Neal Lyons says:

      Jenny – are you referring to the hands on training requiring 4 hours a day? You can do the coursework online and just go in physically for the hands on piece of the curriculum

  19. Lett says:

    I’ve taken the massage therapy course in 2009&Did both.Just didn’t take the state exam.Do I need to take the whole thing over again?

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