How to Start a Massage Therapy School in Alaska

In Alaska, the requirements for massage therapy practice and education are overseen by the Alaska Board of Massage Therapists.  To be licensed in Alaska, therapists must have graduated from a 500-hour (or more) program at an approved massage school or from a board-approved apprenticeship program.  To be an approved massage school in Alaska, your school must either have an authorization to operate from the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education or be accredited by a nationally recognized accreditation agency.

Alaska’s licensing law went into effect in 2015.  According to documents on its website in 2017, the Alaska board had not approved specific schools, but had recommended that the following credentialing agencies be include in regulations:  American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA), Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP), National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) and the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA).

In addition, their documents stated that no apprenticeship programs had been approved and that applicants for licenses that went through an apprenticeship program would be considered on a case-by-case basis.  Minutes from their board meeting in March 2017 indicated that they had not yet established guidelines for approval of apprenticeship programs.  It also appeared that massage schools would not be regulated by the board directly, but they would rely on accreditation by a credentialing agency for approval of an applicant’s educational requirements.

Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education

To be authorized to operate by the ACPE, an institution must, according to their website:

  • submit an application
  • pay appropriate fees
  • provide required surety
  • meet minimum standards regarding quality of education, ethical business practices, and fiscal responsibility as described in law (Alaska Statute 14.48 and Section 20 of the Alaska Administrative Code Chapter 17). These standards are described in the application packet.
  • complete a on-site facility visit
  • receive final approval by the Commission

To begin the process, you will have to request an application packet from the commission.  You can do this by email at  eed.acpe-ia@alaska.gov or call to request it at 907-465-6741.  Once the application is complete and mailed back to the commission, it will be reviewed by the commission at one of their quarterly board meetings.

You must turn in the application approximately 3 months before the meeting at which it will be reviewed.  For instance, in order for it to be reviewed at the April meeting, the application must be received by January 15.

The cost for initial authorization is $2500 and renewals can range from $500 to $2500, depending on your tuition receipts.  Authorization is not transferable, so if you sell your school, the new owner must apply for a new authorization.

National Accreditation Agencies

The Alaska Board listed AMTA, ABMP, NCBTMB, and COMTA as credentialing agencies they would recognize as proof of national accreditation.

To become a school member of AMTA, your school must have a minimum of 500 in-class hours and must be accredited or approved by the state.  You can become a school member by contacting AMTA by telephone at 877-905-0577 and asking to speak to a school account executive.

To become a school member of ABMP, you will have to contact them by phone or email.  The phone number is 800-458-2267.  Their email is education@abmp.com.

Both ABMP and AMTA are membership organizations whose purpose it to provide support and benefits for their members.  Both offer no-cost memberships for schools, but they require that school owners sign up their students as student members in their organization.  They also offer liability insurance programs for students, educators, professionals and schools.

NCBTMB offers an “assigned school” status at no cost for schools that meet certain criteria including a 500-hour program with a minimum number of hours in anatomy and physiology, hands-on instruction, pathology, and business and ethics.  You must submit an application that shows that your school is legitimate, operating legally, and meets their minimum curriculum criteria.  Students cannot sit for the NCBTMB certification exam unless their school is an assigned school.

COMTA accreditation can take 1-2 years to achieve and can only be obtained after your school is already operational.  The major requirements are at least 5 students enrolled, approved by the state, offer your program on the post-secondary level and at least 600 hours of training.  Therefore, you could only obtain COMTA accreditation after you obtained authorization from the ACPE.

Summary

Alaska’s massage therapy licensure laws took effect in 2015 and the rules and regulations regarding approval of schools have not yet been solidified (as of May 2017).  If you want to start a school whose students would be eligible to become licensed in Alaska, you will want to check with the Alaska Board prior to beginning the process in order to determine if new regulations have been written.  At a minimum, your school must have a 500-hour curriculum and be approved by a state or national organization.

Most of the national organizations require state approval, so going through the ACPE for approval of the school may be your best bet for making sure that your school will meet the requirements.  Membership in ABMP, AMTA or a listing with NCBTMB after your approval by the ACPE could provide additional benefits for your school and your students.

Links

Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation

Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals

American Massage Therapy Association

National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork

Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education

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 Massage Therapy Schools

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