Massage Therapy Schools in Alaska: Standards are now in place
Alaska now has standards in place statewide for its massage therapists. Whatever part of the state a prospective massage therapist is living in – urban or frontier – he or she must demonstrate appropriate education and training.
Future massage therapists can, in most cases, expect to complete formal academic programs.
Select an Alaska Massage Therapy School Topic:
- Minimum Educational Standards for Alaska Massage Therapists
- Massage Therapy License Requirements in Alaska
- Beyond Massage School: Salary and Career Development
Minimum Educational Standards for Alaska Massage Therapists
Alaska is unusual in that formal education is not an absolute mandate for new career professionals. Alaska code states that a person can be licensed on the basis of a formal education program of at least 500 hours or on the basis of a Board-approved apprenticeship. Key is “board approved”. This cannot be a typical learning-on-the-job situation.
In 2017, the licensing process is still in its early stages. It remains to be seen what type of apprentice program may be implemented. What is evident: There are multiple massage schools in Alaska and multiple employers advertising for massage therapists who have graduated from 500-hour massage therapy programs. Sometimes an employer will even extol the beauty of Alaska — apparently making an appeal to massage therapists in other states. (After all, Alaska is attractive as at least a temporary adventure to many.)
Health Careers in Alaska, a site maintained by the Alaska Center for Rural Health and Health Workforce, lists 500 hour education programs under requirements and notes this as the national standard (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/ACRHHW/acrh-ahec/healthcareerswebsite/careers-descriptions/massage-therapist.cshtml). A number of states actually now set the requirement higher. However, 500 hours is often accepted as the foundation even when more training is required.
According to state statute, the 500 hours of education must come from an approved school. A school that is located in Alaska can be considered approved if it means one of two standards:
- It is accredited by a nationally recognized agency.
- It is approved by the Alaska Commission on Post-Secondary Education.
The website of the Alaska Commission on Post-Secondary Education includes a list of approved institutions (https://www.uaa.alaska.edu/academics/college-of-health/departments/ACRHHW/acrh-ahec/healthcareerswebsite/careers-descriptions/massage-therapist.cshtml). Schools that are accredited by a national agency typically list the accreditor.
A student may need to have a criminal background check before school admission or before beginning to provide massage under supervision at the student clinic – the background check is a licensing requirement.
There are in-state schooling options that go well above the minimum 500 hours. Individuals who live outside of major metropolitan areas like Anchorage and Fairbanks, though, may need to travel to attend massage school. The timeframe isn’t long – a person can finish a program in about nine months. Prospective students who live in Anchorage or are considering to traveling there may want to do some comparing. One can, for example, opt for a school that provides considerable coursework in Thai massage or Asian bodywork.
For those considering traveling to locations outside Alaska? Some programs are even shorter! They may still provide a foundation in a number of modalities. They can be expected to cover basics such as anatomy and physiology and indications and contraindications of massage.
Currently one Alaska massage school boasts a code assigned by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Prospective students may want to visit the NCBTMB website for the most current information (https://www.ncbtmb.org/ find-approved-school). The NCBTMB does not accredit; however, it only issues codes to schools that are operating legitimately in the state in which they are located and meet certain other basic standards. NCBTMB-assigned schools must follow a particular curriculum outline. Going to an assigned school facilitates the process of becoming board certified (a voluntary adjunct credential).
Some continuing education is required for continued licensure. Alaska mandates 16 hours every two years beginning in 2017. Some practitioners opt for far more. Massage therapists may enroll in programs of 100 or so hours to learn new modalities that can enhance their practice.
Fairbanks has a post-secondary massage school where one can learn (among other things) dog massage. Puppy massage, canine senior massage, canine sports massage… It’s there. Canine sports massage at Kindred Spirits is, as of June 2017, listed on the NCBTMB website under approved CE providers.
Alaska’s Massage Therapist Career Outlook
The highest average pay in the nation for massage therapists is in Alaska — though of course the cost of living is known to be high as well. The median wage is $39.28 or $81,700 for a year of full-time work. Even those at the 10th percentile make $19.45, close to the national median for massage therapists. How much can an Alaska massage therapist make? The 90th percentile wage is $60.05.
The median income is slightly higher in Fairbanks than in Anchorage, but those at the 10th or 25th percentile make less; the 25th percentile wage in Fairbanks is just $22.99 – compared to $33.30 in Anchorage. Massage therapists at the 90th percentile in each of these municipalities make slightly over $60 an hour. The median income in the nonmetropolitan parts of the state is a little less.
While Alaska is low with regard to total number of massage therapists, it is quite high with regard to job concentration — it actually ranks number one here as well. The Anchorage metropolitan area comes in at number two when massage therapist concentration is compared across all metropolitan areas in the United States. The state’s Southeastern nonmetropolitan area ranks fifth.
The massage therapy profession in Alaska has been projected to grow 18.7% between 2014 and 2024 (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm).