In Alabama, the requirements for massage therapy practice and education are overseen by the Alabama Massage Therapy Board. In order for you to start a massage therapy school in Alabama, you must either submit an application to the board and have it approved or have a post-secondary training institute that is accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).
Obtaining Approval from the Alabama Board
Alabama requires you, as the owner of a massage school, to submit an application in a 1-inch, 3-ring binder. Your application must be typed, signed, dated, notarized, and accompanied by a $50 application fee. The application must be reviewed and approved by the Board at one of their meetings. The board meets 4 times per year, so approval time would depend on the timing of the Board’s next meeting, as well as any changes or questions they had for you after their review.
Once a school has been approved, you must notify the Board in writing within 30 days if there is a change in curriculum, ownership, or faculty. Your school must renew its registration annually and pay a $10 fee to renew.
Your application to start a massage school must include:
- A sample transcript and diploma
- A week-by-week curriculum schedule – with description of topics to be covered for entire training period. This curriculum must reflect Alabama’s requirements for licensure: 650 total hours of instruction that include 100 hours anatomy and physiology – that are broken down into 35 hours of study of the muscular system, 15 hours of study of the skeletal system, 10 hours on the circulatory system, 10 hours on the nervous system, and the remaining 30 hours on other body systems at discretion of school.
- 250 hours of basic massage therapy – including contraindications for massage and related touch therapy modalities; this must include at minimum 50 hours of supervised massage, and 50 hours to include business, hydrotherapy, first aid, CPR, and professional ethics. The remaining 250 hours may be electives determined by school.
- Information on instructional materials to be used.
- Your proposed methods to keep the subject matter updated.
- A lists of faculty and instructors and their credentials. Your instructors must be approved as massage therapy instructors by the state Board. The minimum requirements for approval are being a licensed massage therapist in Alabama and having two years of experience as a massage therapist.
- Your published policy regarding the performance level required before a student can graduate.
- A copy of your enrollment contract.
- The training objectives of each program your school intends to offer.
- A syllabus for each course (each in its own divider).
- All the credentials a student may be awarded from completing your programs.
- A copy of your school catalog.
- Information regarding any legal actions against the school or organization that have been taken in the preceding five years.
- The type of business (corporation, sole proprietor, etc.).
- The owner’s name.
- The name of institution.
- Officers of the business.
In addition to approval from the Board of Massage Therapy, you may need to obtain a business license in the county and/or city in which your school is located. Alabama’s Department of Revenue provides information on the business licensing process, and provides a number of publications to aid in opening a business in Alabama.
If you run a massage therapy school in Alabama, you are required to agree to conduct your business under the Code of Ethics in the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy Administrative Code (Rules and Regulations, section 532-X-3-.07).
Alabama does not require massage therapy schools to obtain insurance, but they do require that all licensed therapists have individual professional and general liability insurance coverage of $1,000,000. In addition to each therapist/instructor having their own liability insurance, you can obtain liability and business property insurance for a massage school from some of the major massage therapy organizations.
ABMP offers school liability insurance and business property insurance. Rates are in the $1000 per year range for ABMP school membership and liability insurance, and $200-$500 annually for property insurance. They also offer special rates for student insurance. You can also purchase school insurance from AMTA.
Becoming an Accredited School
You do not have to have accreditation to obtain approval by the Alabama Board of Massage Therapy. However, the board does recognize schools that are postgraduate training institutes accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Massage Therapy. Accreditation is an outside review of your school and programs by a panel of massage therapy professionals.
The COMTA accreditation is recognized by the US Department of Education. Prior to applying for COMTA accreditation, a school must be legally organized and approved by the state. In the case of Alabama, that would require the school obtain an Alabama Private School license from the Alabama Community College System as well as be approved by the Alabama Commission on Higher Education.
In addition, COMTA requires that your school also have at least 5 students enrolled, offer instruction on the post-secondary level, and require completion of at least 600 hours of education to obtain a certificate.
The benefits of accreditation are that your school has been certified to meet certain minimum standards in preparing students for licensure as professional massage therapists. It also allows your school to accept federal student financial aid funds, allowing more students to be able to afford the program.
The disadvantages of accreditation are that the process requires four steps and much greater cost and paper work in order to begin accepting students:
- Licensure by the Alabama Community College System ($2500 or more application fee, approval or disapproval within 30 days of application).
- Approval from the Alabama Commission on Higher Education ($2500 application fee, programmatic review required).
- Review by COMTA (A minimum of $7775 fees, includes an application, online course, self-study report, on-site visit, findings report and response, as well as deliberation and decision).
- Present approvals to the Board for recognition as a massage therapy school.
In addition to the fees listed above, maintaining licensure and accreditation require annual or bi-annual payments both to the state of Alabama and to COMTA.