A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in District of Columbia

Students who go to massage therapy in the greater Washington DC area often have multiple sets of standards to be aware of: those of the jurisdiction where the school is located and those of other surrounding jurisdictions.

Select a DC Massage Therapy School Topic:

Massage Therapy Educational Standards for DC Licensing

Programs located within the District of Columbia are to be licensed by the Educational Licensing Commission; those located in other jurisdictions can receive consideration on the basis of equivalent licensing. The program will need to be 500 hours or more and completed in no less than six months. It must meet additional standards established in state code. The massage therapy school may be accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) or judged equivalent. It may instead be accredited by a regional accrediting agency or an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, for example, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). COMTA equivalency is determined by the DC Board.

100 hours of the program will be in the combined areas of physiology, anatomy, and kinesiology. The majority of the rest of the hours in a basic 500 hour program will consist of the theory and practice of massage therapy. Massage contradictions, business practices, health and hygiene, and CPR are among the other creditable topics. The program must include at least three hours of professional ethics instruction.

College students can figure a credit hour as 37 contact hours.

Though the student will need to graduate from a program that requires 500 or more hours, it is acceptable to attend more than one program along the way.

Going to Massage School in the Greater Washington Area

There is a good chance that a DC massage therapist will attend a program located in the greater metropolitan area; even Columbia College of DC has its three branches located in areas that are under Virginia or Maryland jurisdiction.

Schools located in border regions are often a good source of information about licensing requirements. There are multiple schools in the general vicinity that claim to satisfy licensing or certification requirements in all three jurisdictions: DC, Virginia, and Maryland. Maryland has multiple levels of credentaling. If the program does not award a substantial amount of college credit, and the individual does not have other college credit, he or she would be credentialed as a practitioner not a therapist in Maryland. There are associate’s degree programs in the greater metropolitan area. One may, of course, decide to go for the associate's even if one plans to practice only in the District of Columbia.

Massage Therapy Program Options

A massage therapy school will likely offer coursework in a variety of modalities; deep tissue massage, chair massage, and sports massage may be among the offerings. Programs may include some exposure to movement and energy modalities as well as the soft-tissue modalities that represent traditional Western massage. An associate degree program may include additional advanced massage coursework such as lymph drainage massage and pregnancy massage.

Students may want to give consideration to fieldwork experiences.

A prospective student may attend an information session to determine if the school -- and career -- seem right.

There are schools in the greater metropolitan area with the following accreditations:

  • COMTA
  • National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts & Sciences (NACCAS)
  • Council on Occupational Education (COE)

COMTA-accredited programs, notably, are now at least 600 hours. It also takes 600 hours to be license-qualifying in Maryland. While the District of Columbia can license individuals on the basis of 500-hour programs, programs located in the vicinity of DC are frequently 600 hours or more.

Some students opt for programs that have been assigned test codes by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). This is not the same as accreditation. However, it is a first step toward achieving national board certification. Board certification does not take the place of being licensed in each jurisdiction in which one works. However, it is designed to reflect expertise beyond the entry-level.

While there are no assigned programs within the Washington DC municipality, a student will not have to travel beyond the greater metropolitan area. National board certification requires additional coursework: a total of 750 hours. College coursework is creditable as is continuing education that has been specifically approved by the NCBTMB. Washington DC licensees should be aware that there is some difference between what is accepted by the NCBTMB as continuing education and what is accepted by the DC licensing agency. While many NCBTMB offerings fit both categories, some NCBTMB-approved offerings are either disallowed by the licensing agency or creditable as only a limited portion of the continuing education requirement.

Schools may offer day, evening, and even weekend options. In some cases, they may award transfer credit. However, courses that appear, on the surface, to have similar content are not always creditable.

Beyond Massage School: Career Outlook and Average Salary

The District of Columbia has been projected to see 11.8% growth in massage therapist employment between 2014 and 2024.

The median wage for the entire Washington-Arlington-Alexandria area spanning portions of Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia is $17.82 an hour. Salaries are highly variable. Those at the 10th percentile make $9.06 an hour; those at the 90th percentile, $34.28.