A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Iowa: Meeting High Standards in Iowa

Iowa sets high standards for massage therapy schools -- and for the profession. Even an out-of-state licensee may be expected to attend massage therapy school while under temporary licensure if his or her education isn't up to Iowa standards.

Select an Iowa Massage Therapy School Topic:

Iowa Massage Therapy Schools: Covering the Basics

A student who enrolls in an Iowa-approved program can expect a minimum of 600 hours of massage therapy education and training. This is 100 hours more than the minimum set in many districts (and what is still often regarded as the national standard). However, it is not as many as what is required in some states. A few states are outliers -- or ahead of their time.

Up to 120 hours of Iowa’s 600 required hours can be credited for work in a student clinic.

The curriculum will include the following:

  • Massage therapy fundamentals
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Massage and bodywork clinical application
  • Kinesthesiology
  • Pathology/ infection control and sanitation/injury prevention
  • Client communications
  • Healthcare referral
  • Business management
  • Iowa-specific law and ethics

Fundamentals coursework will include contraindications.

Wellness and lifestyle can include various complementary health practices. Some, like cold and hot treatments, are very commonly incorporated into massage therapy. Others, like nutrition and herbal studies, draw from separate disciplines. Spa treatments could also be considered wellness and lifestyle topics. The school's philosophy and emphasis will of course go a fair ways in determining what actually gets included in the curriculum.

Massage School Accreditations and Approvals

An Iowa massage therapy school may or may not hold national accreditation; this is less fundamental than in health fields where programs are longer and more academic. Enrollment in an accredited program does facilitate mobility in some cases. Accreditation is also tied to receipt of traditional financial aid packages. COMTA and NACCAS are among the possible accrediting agencies.

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is not an accrediting agency but can still be regarded as a standard setter. Assignment of an NCBTMB code indicates that a program has gone through a basic review process; the process is more stringent in the case of non-accredited programs. Iowa boasts 16 assigned schools; some are different branches of the same school but have been assigned separately.

Iowa students who choose the NCBTMB pathway can opt to use the board certification exam as their licensing exam. However, there is another option – one that does not require them to meet any requirements beyond what is required for licensure.

Board certification is an optional secondary credential. In order to achieve it, an individual will need 750 hours of massage therapy education. Students who complete NCBTMB-approved initial programs of less than 750 hours can still achieve certification; they can make up the difference through continuing education. A number of Iowa schools are NCBTMB-approved continuing education providers; some individuals are also approved. Offerings are diverse: everything from applying craniosacral therapy to dementia to providing equine performance bodywork.

Massage Therapy Training Program Options

There are a number of relatively long programs in Iowa: longer, in fact, than even the new state standards require. Some massage therapy schools offer multiple programs; these may vary in the number of hours and/ or program emphasis. One school has fully five tracks, among them reflexology, Asian bodywork, and spa and resort. The number of hours will depend on the selected career track and the electives pursued; a student may opt for a 600 hour program – or a 1,000 hour one.

Iowa students also have the option of pursuing a 1,000 hour program in medical massage. (Medical massage is an area where one typically needs quite a bit of training.) Students can go in a different direction and enroll in a combined program in cosmetology and massage therapy. They may even come away with an associate's degree. And for those who just want a solid generalist curriculum? That’s an option, too.

Location will be a concern to some. However, some Iowa massage schools may provide student housing – a possible advantage for students coming from rural parts of the state.

After Graduation: Salary and Career Outlook

Massage therapy salaries can vary widely from one part of Iowa to another. Some parts of the state report salaries far above the national average, others well below. (Since the Iowa Bureau of Labor Statistics figures are based on lower employment levels, though, the margin of error is greater than in many states.)

Cedar Rapids, with a mean hourly wage of $33.61, is fifth highest of all metropolitan areas in the nation (https://data.bls.gov/oes/#/home). The median – the wage level where half are earning more and half less – is $35.62. Just 10% of the massage therapists in the Cedar Rapids area make below $20.19; another 10% make above $39.83.

In the Des Moines/ West Des Moines area the average salary is close to that of the nation as a whole (mean: $21.01 median: $19.47). Dubuque, Iowa City, and the greater Davenport area all report massage therapist salaries below the national average. The Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area is another area, meanwhile, that is above.

The Southeast Iowa nonmetropolitan area is also fourth highest in the nation for nonmetropolitan massage therapist employment levels – this is measured by total number of massage therapists.

Nationwide salary is greatly influenced by industry. Thankfully, massage is a growing market. Iowa massage therapist employment has been projected to increase by 23.8% between 2014 and 2024 (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm). Spas and chiropractor’s offices are two of the more common settings, as are private massage therapy offices. Inspirit Institute, a local massage therapy school, lists the following as places where massage therapists potentially could find employment: wellness centers, home care and hospice, sports medicine centers, and corporations.

Dubuque has the highest massage therapist job concentration in the state. The Des Moines/ West Des Moines area is second.