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Degree Overview: Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degree in Therapeutic Massage

Majors Overview March 5, 2014

Receive information about an Associate of Arts (A.A.) degree in therapeutic massage and its course topics, job and wage outlook, and certification, licensure, and continuing education choices.

A.A. Programs in Therapeutic Massage

Students enrolled in a 2-year associate degree program in therapeutic massage are trained to seek entry-level occupations as therapists in different settings, such as nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, yoga institutions, sports facilities, hospitals and spas. Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS), Associate of Science (AS) or Associate of Applied Science (AAS) degrees may be granted by the program. Admission criteria typically require applicants to hold a GED certificate or high school diploma.

Students can expect to hone the technical skills necessary to relieving pain and stress as well as relaxing muscles through the use of various massage techniques, known as modalities. Many schools also teach students about holistic health and wellness, thereby encouraging students to look at patient care from comprehensive personal health perspectives. Students can expect to become adept at using massage in treating injuries, reducing anxiety, improving circulation, rehabilitating sports injuries and correcting posture. There are up to 80 different massage types for therapists to specialize in, including popular modalities such as deep-tissue massage, sports massage and Swedish massage.

Course Topics

Coursework within associate degree programs in therapeutic massage includes subject areas such as pathology, massage techniques, physiology and anatomy. Clinical practice is also included in programs devised to train massage therapists about half of which are self-employed and can learn to run their own massage businesses. Coursework may include topic areas such as:

•Massage techniques for chronic diseases
•Medical and business ethics
•Interpersonal psychology
•Upper and lower body massage techniques
•Musculoskeletal system
•Medical terminology

Job and Wage Outlook

A better-than-average job growth rate of 23% has been predicted for massage therapists during the decade from 2012 to 2022 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)). The growth is expected to be driven by growing mainstream acceptance and recognition of the profession. Licensure accorded to these professionals in states has added to the credibility of the practice. In 2012, massage therapists took home an average hourly wage of $17.29.

Certification, Licensure, and Continuing Education Choices

Licensure is not mandatory in all states and requirements may vary by state. The National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB) and the similar National Certification Examination for Therapeutic Massage (NCETM) are offered by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB).

Some states accept the passage of the NCETMB in lieu of licensure. 500 hours of coursework is generally required for certification, in addition to the passage of an exam and submission to a background check.

The National Examination for State Licensing (NESL) is additionally administered by the NCBTMB. State Massage Therapy Boards administer the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEX) thereby offering another choice for licensure seekers. Licensure may be maintained through continuing education classes. Students aspiring to expand their repertoires may choose to learn about other modalities such as acupressure or reflexology.

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