A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Colorado: Hot Job Prospects for Recent Graduates

Cool summers and hot job prospects: Colorado can be a great place to begin a career as a massage therapist. Like most states, Colorado requires prospective massage therapists to attend massage school. The right educational choices can help set one on the path to success.

Select a Colorado Massage School Topic:

Meeting Colorado Educational Standards

Colorado requires massage therapists to attend approved schools and complete at least 500 hours of massage therapy education. In the case of Colorado massage therapy regulation, “approved school” can mean different things. It’s generally not the Colorado Board itself that is doing the scrutinizing. A school of massage therapy can be considered approved if any of the following apply:

  • It is approved by the Colorado Division of Private and Occupational Schools.
  • It is certified by the Colorado Community College System.
  • It is accredited by a nationally recognized agency.
  • It is part of the community college system of another state or U.S.
jurisdiction or is approved by the other state's education regulatory body (assuming that the school is located in that other state).

A program located in another country can even be considered approved, but the education will need to be evaluated by one of the evaluation agencies listed in state code.

In short, there are a lot of choices. One can go to massage school in any of many Colorado towns or cities -- or go to school in another place and come home to Colorado.

The Colorado Division of Private and Occupational Schools lists many approved schools (http://highered.colorado.gov/DPOS/Students/directorycategory.asp?residency=in). They are housed in various types of institution, including beauty schools, massage therapy institutes, and vocational schools. Schools may offer various signatures therapies and techniques, including conjunctive therapies as well as massage.

According to Colorado code, a school that has been assigned a code by the Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork and is in good standing with this entity will be considered to have met requirements for both approval and educational hours. The “educational hours” aspect is not necessarily a big concern except at the paperwork stage, as most approved programs today will meet or exceed the 500 hour requirement. Still, there can be other advantages to attending an assigned school. It can facilitate the process of attaining national board certification -- for those who like to show that they have met standards above the minimum -- and in some cases, it will facility mobility. Attendance at an assigned school is no guarantee that one's education will be adequate to meet standards in a new state -- New York has set its requirement at 1,000 hours -- but the more rigorous standards mean more options. Colorado has fully 20 assigned schools (http://www.ncbtmb.org/tools/find-approved-school). One won't find any institutions that identify as beauty schools on that list, but one will find schools that specialize in particular branches of massage therapy -- e.g. structural integration.

There are some competencies that are common to all forms of massage and bodywork. All practitioners should expect a solid grounding in body structure and function and in health conditions where massage would be indicated or contraindicated. Future massage therapists will need some introduction to the legal and professional dimensions of the job role – and, of course, time spent developing basic techniques. However, some courses are more relevant to certain career paths than others. Massage therapists may focus on everything from creating the perfect spa experience to providing medical massage under referral from a healthcare provider. Medical Massage of the Rockies cites the following among the types of therapy that its Colorado massage therapists employ: strain counter strain, myofascial release, positional release, and trigger point therapy.

The Berkana Institute of Massage Therapy in Boulder notes that 625 hours is the recommended entry-level according to the Entry Level Analysis Project (ELAP). Of course there’s far more to study! Electives can include everything from chair massage to working with special populations. Some Colorado schools offer multiple tracks with different numbers of hours. It’s not necessary to sign up for the advanced tracks at the onset. Massage therapists can wait until they have a little more experience – and funds.

Bodywork techniques are under constant development. A June 2017 article noted that the country’s first low-cost spinal reflex therapy clinic was on its way to Boulder (http://www.dailycamera.com/lifestyles/ci_31042918/first-ever-low-cost-spinal-reflex-therapy-headed). The clinic could bring a cutting age pain management therapy within reach of college students and other low-wage individuals – and also give new practitioners a chance to develop in a supportive environment.

Job Outlook Post-Graduation

Colorado is third in the nation for massage therapy job concentration -- behind only Alaska and Hawaii (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319011.htm). The Denver-Aurora-Lakewood area ranks fourth in the nation for job concentration and comes in at number 2 for total employment level. Boulder, meanwhile, ranks sixth in the nation for job concentration. The Northwest Colorado nonmetropolitan area has the second highest job concentration of massage therapists of any nonmetropolitan area in the nation -- and comes in at number one for total employment level. Fort Collins is another good market, though not quite at the same level when it comes to job concentration.

Colorado employment levels are expected to continue to grow at well above the annual level, with estimated 38.3% occupational growth between 2014 and 2024 (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm). This would bring the state from a base 7,360 up to 10,170.

Fort Collins and Boulder are at the high end, salary-wise, with median hourly wages of $28.12 and $27.29 respectively (https://data.bls.gov/oes/#/home). Colorado Springs is the lowest paying metropolitan area in Colorado, but the median wage here is still $18.66 -- just a little below the national median of $19.12. Colorado massage therapists at the low end (25th percentile) are generally making between about $9.00 and $12.00 an hour; those in Fort Collins are making significantly more: $21.63. Colorado massage therapists at the 75th percentile generally have wages between the low 20’s and mid-30s, depending on market. Wages in the Southern and Eastern nonmetropolitan area are actually the highest in the state – and by no small amount. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has not released data about employment levels in this region.