A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Montana: A relatively short path

Montana massage therapy programs meet (and often exceed) generally accepted standards. The licensing agency defers to well-regarded national organizations when it comes to determining minimum curriculum requirements. Individual schools often opt to go above the minimum program length by as many as 300 hours. This can allow for additional practice time as well as specialized training. The path is still relatively short. Programs take approximately six to twelve months to complete.

Select a Montana Massage Therapy School Topic:

Massage School Education Standards

State regulation sets the minimum coursework at 500 hours and stipulates that the curriculum meet the requirements of some organization or program that meets standards set by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies. Montana code specifically references the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork as an acceptable curricular authority but notes that other education may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

The NCBTMB is well-known as a certifying body around the nation, though its level of influence varies. In an age where most states license massage therapists, NCBTMB board certification has evolved to represent a high level of expertise as opposed to minimum competency. The organization still reviews initial massage therapy programs according to a fairly basic set of standards. Curricular minimums set by the NCBTMB are referenced in Montana code; these are the ones that are in NCBTMB usage as of mid-2017. A massage therapist should be aware that national board certification does not replace licensure in states that license.

NCBTMB-assigned programs meet at least the following minimum standards. Body systems coursework (anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology comprises at least 125 hours. Pathology comprises an additional 40 hours. A minimum of 200 hours are devoted to massage and bodywork theory and practice. Business and ethics together comprise 10 hours. Of these, at least six must be in ethics.

That leaves fully 125 hours of discretionary coursework in some area of study that completes the program – even in a course that meets minimum standards for length.

Programs that have been reviewed by the NCBTMB and assigned a testing code are listed on the NCBTMB website. Completion of a program through an assigned school can confer additional advantages, particularly if one will be seeking board certification. Board certification carries a slightly higher educational requirement as well as additional requirements. Some of Montana's assigned programs are below the 750 hours that will eventually be required for certification. Students who attend shorter programs (and who do not have creditable college or university credits) can make up the difference using continuing education coursework that has been specifically approved by the NCBTMB. Some practitioners opt to take blocks of coursework that will allow them to master new modalities or develop their skills in meeting specific therapeutic goals. Among the Montana options are shiatsu, Thai massage, craniosacral therapy, hydrotherapy, energy awareness, and structural balance techniques for different parts of the body. One offering is titled “East meets West”, giving a nod not just to the different traditions which massage represents but to their powerful synergy in the creation and implementation of treatment plans.

Other Massage Therapy Program Considerations

Montana programs range from about 600 hours to over 800 hours. One reason students sometimes opt for a longer initial program: They want to put in considerable time at a student clinic giving massages to members of the public. They may also want specialized clinical training. Some programs prepare practitioners for other certifications such as neuromuscular therapy certification. Massage therapy schools may also opt to give their students far more instruction in business practices than the small amount that is mandated under NCBTMB standards. Massage therapists are, after all, often self-employed; they may set up shop on their own or work collaboratively with other holistic health providers.

Students may consider accreditation. Some Montana programs are nationally accredited through the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) or the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Sciences (NACCAS). COMTA is the accreditation most strongly associated with massage therapy programs. A program that is housed in a beauty school will often boast NACCAS accreditation.

Geography will of course play a part in program selection in a state like Montana. Those who have choices – for example, those who live in the Billings area or those who are considering relocating to another city for massage school – may consider examination scores and quality of instruction. Some massage schools boast very small class sizes.

Massage School Admission

Montana requires massage therapy licensees to hold high school diplomas or GEDs. Students can generally expect the massage therapy to ask for documentation at the time of application.

The school may require only basic information (for example, documentation of social security card and any applicable licenses) or may ask for recommendations.

Salary and Career Outlook

Montana massage therapists earn a median hourly wage of $20.15 -- just above the national average. The median is significantly higher in the Southwest nonmetropolitan area of the state than it is in Missoula ($19.97 as opposed to $11.56). Those at the high end of the scale, though, make more in Missoula. Massage therapists at the 90th percentile in Missoula make $33.41; in the Southwestern nonmetropolitan region, they make $24.16.