A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Kentucky

The Kentucky massage therapy profession has been in the news recently! Researchers at the University of Kentucky are exploring the benefits of massage therapy for pain management -- as an alternative to far riskier opioids. While it takes a lot of education to be at the forefront of massage therapy research, it doesn’t take a lot to be a practitioner. Massage therapy is among the more lucrative healthcare careers open to individuals without a college degree. The Kentucky Board of Licensure for Massage Therapy requires massage therapists to complete programs of at least 600 hours. Programs may be completed in well under a year.

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Kentucky Massage Therapy Program Standards

According to Kentucky law, in-state programs are to be licensed by the Kentucky State Board for Proprietary Education or the Council on Postsecondary Education. This ensures their legitimacy. The program must also meet standards described in the law and code book. Kentucky puts massage therapy schools that operate within its borders under considerable scrutiny. Not only must the institution be approved to offer a massage therapy program, it must renew its certificate of good standing each year.

Students who go to massage school in Kentucky can be assured that the program meets minimum curricular requirements. Students will receive at least 125 hours of body systems coursework (anatomy, physiology, or kinesiology) and at least 40 hours of pathology. There will be at least 200 hours devoted to theory, techniques, and practice. The law and rules book includes a list of techniques that are to be covered; among them are kneading, direct pressure, compression, joint pressure, and superficial warming techniques. There will be an additional 200 hours devoted to various Board-identified subjects that relate to the practice of massage as a profession. Included in this content area is coursework in modalities that are specific to a particular program’s objective. Other required content includes massage benefits, contraindications, client documentation, legalities, ethics, history, and business.

Programs may include an externship experience that is above and beyond the 600 hours required for licensure.

Instructors must meet minimum qualifications set at the state level; these vary depending on whether the course is considered practical, science, or adjunctive. The Board website lists ten approved Kentucky massage therapy schools (http://bmt.ky.gov/Pages/schools.aspx). Lexington and Louisville boast three schools each.

Considering Standards of National Organizations

Some Kentucky schools hold accreditation through nationally recognized accrediting agencies such as the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) or the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES).

The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCTMB), while not an accrediting body, is a standard setter nonetheless. Assignment of a testing code by the NCBTMB means eventual eligibility to test for a prestigious adjunct certification. It also indicates that certain basic requirements have been met. Kentucky has seven assigned schools.

Students whose assigned schools provided less than 750 hours of massage therapy education can complete the remainder through NCBTMB-approved continuing education. According to the law and rules book, continuing education that has been approved by NCBTMB can be accepted as meeting renewal requirements in Kentucky. (There are other approved providers as well.)

Other Massage Training Program Considerations

Kentucky programs vary in the attention they give to different modalities, Eastern and Western, and in the emphasis they place on guiding philosophies. They may place value on ancient traditions and the spirituality underlying them. They may instead focus on modern, evidence-based practice. It’s not necessarily either-or, but every program must make choices about what’s most fundamental – even programs that exceed the minimum by several hundred hours can’t cover the breadth of massage and bodywork practice.

A program may include externship as an optional experience. This can help students begin to forge careers as treatment providers. One Kentucky school offers a 100-hour advanced hospital-based program.

Job placement services are another very practical perk.

Salary, Career Outlook… and Possibility

Kentucky’s massage therapists earn a median salary of $18.81, just under the national average of $19.17. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has released wage data for three Kentucky metropolitan areas: Lexington/ Fayette, Bowling Green, and the Louisville/ Jefferson County area; the Louisville/ Jefferson County metropolitan district also includes portions of Indiana. Of these metropolitan areas, reported wages are highest in Bowling Green. There massage therapists enjoy a median wage of $23.30 with those at the 10th percentile earning $13.96 and those at the 90th percentile earning $38.12. In Louisville/ Jefferson County, the median is $20.76. The 10th percentile wage is $12.31; the 90th percentile wage, $30.93. In Lexington/ Fayette, the median is $17.94; the 10th percentile wage is just $9.43 but those at the 90th percentile earn $30.17.

BLS data suggests job concentration is higher in the Lexington area than the Louisville area. Job concentration data has not been released for Bowling Green (This is as of mid-2017.)

Kentucky massage therapist employment has been projected to see 28.5% growth between 2014 and 2024, up to 1,620 from a base of 1,260 (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm). It’s not just the statisticians, though, who tell us this is likely to be a growing profession. Kentucky has been at the forefront of research in the benefits of massage in treating chronic lower back pain. The principal investigator of a study funded by National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and the National Institutes of Health has stated that, while more research is indicated, initial results may give medical providers confidence in referring their CLBP patients to massage therapists (https://uknow.uky.edu/research/biomedical/uk-study-underscores-benefits-clinical-massage-therapy-chronic-lower-back-pain). This is a time for those interested in the massage therapy field to feel some excitement – and to build their depth and breadth of skill.