Arizona Massage Therapy Schools: Meeting Practice Standards and Individual Career Goals
Arizona has many recognized schools of massage therapy. They are designed with two goals in mind: meeting the state’s practice standards and meeting individual career goals.
Select an Arizona Massage Therapy School Topic:
- Minimum Standards to be recognized by the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy
- The Arizona Massage Therapy Curriculum
- Massage Therapy License Requirements in Arizona
- Beyond Massage Therapy School: Salary and Career Prospects
A program must, at minimum, be recognized by the Arizona State Board of Massage Therapy. An Arizona-based massage school can be recognized if one of the following applies (https://massagetherapy.az.gov/statutes-and-rules):
- It holds accreditation through an entity recognized by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.
- It is approved by the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education.
- It is offered through a joint technical education district.
An Arizona student will need at least 700 hours of preparation through a recognized program.
Schools located outside Arizona can be Board-recognized if they hold accepted accreditation or are approved through agencies roughly equivalent to the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education. The Arizona Board has created a long list of recognized schools, located throughout the nation (https://massagetherapy.az.gov/schools). If a school doesn’t appear on the list, it can apply to the Board for recognition.
Educational choices can simplify the path to licensure. An in-state student can be exempted from having to take a licensing or certification examination if his or her program holds an accepted accreditation.
Prospective students may consider national standard setters. A student who attends a school that has been assigned a code through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork will be qualified to take a nationally recognized board certification examination without portfolio review. Currently, there are 18 Arizona schools that have met standards and been assigned codes (https://www.ncbtmb.org/ find-approved-school).
The Massage Therapy Curriculum
Generally, massage therapy students can expect the following:
- Foundational coursework in body structure and function (for example, anatomy and physiology)
- Coursework that prepares them to meet professional standards (for example, courses in ethics and in contraindications of massage)
- Coursework that develops theoretical knowledge and practical skills in massage modalities
- Practical experience
Programs are varied. They may offer specialized training that will help practitioners better serve particular populations. Some programs give considerable attention to Asian bodywork techniques. There may be some treatment of conjunctive modalities like energy therapy. The student may have the opportunity to take a class in aromatherapy or Tai Chi – these are not massage, but may help clients with physical or self-care goals.
Students may select programs based on their philosophy. Some Arizona massage therapy schools emphasize the mind-body connection. It is generally expected that massage programs will give some attention to health practitioner self-care. However, some give more attention to self-reflection and self-development, including practices such as journaling.
Schools may offer both a professional track and an advanced training option. Some Arizona students complete more than 1,000 hours of formal massage therapy training. Massage schools may be stand-alone or may be housed within traditional college settings. Some schools have an associate’s degree option. Schools may facilitate various pre-professional experiences. The school may, for example, have an active chapter of HOSA (a health occupations student group).
Students are frequently required to show that they have met some licensing standards before they enroll in massage school. Pre-enrollment requirements may include a background check and evidence of high school graduation. In some cases, though, an Arizona student can begin massage therapy education as a high school senior. Future massage therapists can turn in their applications to Western Maricopa Education Center junior year; they face a competitive process.
Massage therapy students may be eligible for various types of monetary assistance, depending on individual circumstance. Some who need assistance with job retraining may be eligible for funding through the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. The certificate and associate’s degree massage therapy programs at Central Arizona College, for example, received WOIA approval in March of 2017.
Beyond Massage Therapy School: Salary and Career Prospects
Arizona offers plenty of opportunity for massage school graduates: Massage therapist employment within the state has been projected to increase 29% (from 4,730 to 6,090) between 2014 and 2024 (https://www.careeronestop.org/toolkit/careers/occupations/occupation-profile.aspx?keyword=Massage%20Therapists&onetcode=31901100&location=arizona).
The Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale area makes the list of the metropolitan areas with the highest massage therapist employment levels, coming in at #10 nationwide (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319011.htm). There are other good markets within Arizona. The Flagstaff, Prescott, and Tucson metropolitan areas all have slightly higher concentrations of massage therapists (when measured by the number of massage therapy jobs per 1,000 total jobs). The non-metropolitan parts of the state tend to be lesser markets with regard to job concentration as well as total numbers.
Arizona massage therapists enjoy an hourly median wage of $19.58. Those who are at the 25th percentile make $13.91 while those at the 75th percentile make $27.19. The highest pay in the state is in the Tucson area; there the median is $20.46, with those at the 25th percentile earning $16.27 and those at the 75th percentile earning $25.28 (https://data.bls.gov/oes/#/home). The median wage is just a little lower in the Phoenix area ($19.70), but Phoenix-area massage therapists who are at the lower end of the wage scale (25th percentile) make considerably less than their Tucson counterparts: just $12.71. Wages in the Flagstaff area are the lowest in the state with a median of just $15.05 (25th percentile, $9.29; 75th percentile, $21.06). Flagstaff is considered a pleasant college town, though — and does have four seasons.
Some massage therapists want to see it all, more or less, during their careers. A strong foundation means more options. Arizona standards are higher than many states, but not the highest in the nation. Some states are more specific about what must be included in a massage therapy program.