A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in California: Meet credentialing standards as well as pursue your unique philosophies and career interests.

Educational standards for California massage therapists have gone up in recent years. They are on a par with what is often considered the national standard. Whether one wants to meet the basic licensing standards or go far beyond, there are plenty of options. In a state with so many big cities, students can select massage schools that not only meet credentialing standards but further their unique philosophies and career interests.

Select a California Massage Therapy School Topic:

Educational Standards for California Massage Therapists

A prospective California massage therapist must pursue at least 500 hours of career training from an approved school.

Any massage therapy school located within California should appear on the list maintained by California's certifying body, the California Massage Therapy Council (http://www.camtc.org). Regulation protects the student as well as the public. CAMTC determines that a massage school is operating legitimately and takes other steps to ensure that it is adequately educating and protecting its students (http://www.camtc.org/schools/school-owneradministrator/). Schools do occasionally get un-approved. Massage therapy schools document their instructor qualifications, transcripts, enrollment agreements, and curriculum to CAMTC. They provide information about instructor-student ratio. CAMTC conducts site visits and even interviews. Students should carefully peruse the CAMTC list as it is a broad reference that includes some programs that were approved during particular time periods on the past.

The curriculum must meet minimum standards. A student will have at least 100 hours in the following subjects:

  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Health and hygiene
  • Contraindications
  • Business and ethics

The California school will ensure that at least 64 hours are devoted to the study of anatomy and physiology. (Not all states specify the minimum requirement for body systems coursework, but those that do sometimes set it significantly higher.)

A California student may work under appropriate supervision in a student massage clinic. However, the school may credit no more than 75 of the required 500 hours for this experience.

An individual who has pursued schooling in another jurisdiction may be approved for certification if the education is determined to be at least substantially equivalent. One of the determining factors is legitimacy: A career school must be authorized as such in its own jurisdiction (http://www.camtc.org/requirements-to-certify/).

Selecting a California Massage Therapy School and Program

Many basic programs offer a set curriculum. Others offer electives even at the basic level. Among the possibilities:

  • Hot stone massage
  • Craniosacral therapy
  • Sports massage
  • Sciata
  • Massage of geriatric populations

CAMTC lists the number of hours of California programs. Some massage therapy schools offer several program choices. The shortest is likely to be in the 500 to 600 hour range; the longest may include well over 1,000 hours of massage therapy training. There may be a generalist and/ or specialist track. Some initial programs are designed to go into depth in particular areas of massage, like neuromuscular massage. One track may allow the student to meet requirements for other holistic certifications. A massage therapy program may be pursued as part of a broader holistic health practitioner program. A holistic healthcare program will likely bring in more concepts that are not massage but that complement massage practice, for example nutrition and movement. Students who opt for such programs should be aware that just as individual states set requirements for massage therapy practice, they also set requirements for other types of practice. Practices that may not require an additional license in one jurisdiction may require one in another.

Massage therapists who seek board certification through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork will need 750 total education hours (though they can complete as few as 500 at the onset and complete the rest later). The 750 hour standard is relevant to students who complete programs that have been assigned codes by the NCNTMB. In most cases, the code is necessary to even sit for the board certification exam. Board certification is an optional adjunct credential that does not replace California licensing but may be considered a higher standard. California has 36 assigned schools (http://www.ncbtmb.org/tools/find-approved-school). San Diego boasts four; several municipalities boast a couple.

The program may award a certificate or diploma -- or even an associate's degree. An associate’s program will bring in a small amount of general education coursework. Students may seek gainful employment data about programs they are considering. Other considerations include faculty distinction and overall reputation. (CAMTC requires adequacy, but schools can go far beyond).

Beyond Massage School: Seeking Employment in California

When measured by sheer numbers, California has the highest employment level of massage therapists in the United States. The Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale metropolitan division has the highest employment level of any metropolitan division. If one considers job concentration instead, Napa comes out top in the nation. The San Rafael area is third. The larger California metropolises are further down the list -- as is the state as a whole.

The median hourly wage for a California massage therapist is $18.93. Those at the 10th percentile earn $10.01 while those at the 90th percentile earn $32.57. The highest wages in the state are in the Santa Rosa area; this is among the higher paying market in the nation. Here the median is $30.37.

The following is a list of median massage therapy wages in some of the state’s major metropolitan divisions:

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach-Glendale $20.69
  • Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $16.97
  • San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $20.79
  • San Diego-Carlsbad $17.14
  • Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade $16.53

The lowest median wage in the state is in the Chico area, but the actual picture is more complex: If one looks at the 10th percentile wage (a place where many workers find themselves during the early part of their career), the Chico area is actually a little higher than most areas of the state. The $12.51 10th percentile wage reported for this area is below that of Santa Rosa but above the $10.01 reported for some of major metropolitan areas.

The massage therapist occupation has been projected to see 24.1% growth in California during the 2014 to 2024 decade; this is a little higher than the national average. The massage therapy profession is hot around the nation, but in California it has been looking especially sunny.

Narrowing it down:

Massage Schools in Los Angeles

Massage Schools in San Diego

Massage Therapy Schools in San Jose

California Massage License Requirements