A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Pennsylvania

According to an article in the Reading Eagle, the demand for massage therapy is increasing as the practice comes to the mainstream as a form of healthcare (http://www.readingeagle.com/business-weekly/article/opportunities-pay-grow-for-licensed-massage-therapists). The author gives a glimpse into the world of two Pennsylvania massage therapy students, noting that they answer questions on muscle contractions and parallel muscle fibers, and that it takes a lot more than “baby oil and a sign” to become a practitioner.

Pennsylvania has high expectations for both massage schools and students. Some time between instruction and licensing, prospective massage therapists will take a licensing examination. The Pennsylvania Board recognizes just how important that test is. Pennsylvania schools must provide prospective students with information about how their students have fared on the examination during the prior two years.

The Board has identified a number of essential skills and knowledge areas. Pennsylvania schools are expected to teach their students to do the following:

  • Provide fundamental treatment for human soft tissue manipulation
  • Locate and palpate anatomical landmarks
  • Use draping in a way that is consistent with function and safety
  • Use topical preparations, heat, hydrotherapy, and movement safely (with movements within the person's normal range of motion)
  • Develop, implement, and modify a massage treatment plan in a way that takes into account indications and contraindications
  • Obtain informed consent
  • Utilize interpersonal communication effectively
  • Make ethical decisions in a way consistent with professional standards
  • Maintain a safe and comfortable practice environment
  • Maintain appropriate records

Select a Pennsylvania Massage Therapy School Topic:

Massage Therapy School Components

Education may be pursued through a licensed private post-secondary school or a regionally accredited college. Prospective students can visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education website to search by program type (http://www.education.pa.gov/Postsecondary-Adult/College%20and%20Career%20Education/Pages/PLS-General-Resources.aspx#tab-1).

The student will need at least 600 hours of post-secondary education and training. No less than 175 hours will be in the combined areas of anatomy and physiology, kinesiology, and pathology. HIV must receive coverage.

The student will need, at minimum, 250 hours of assessment, theory, and practice in massage and bodywork. This content is to include safety and hygiene.

The student will also need 25 combined hours of massage- and bodywork-related business practice and professional ethics.

CPR is another required program component.

Students may receive some credit for work performed on the public while under direct supervision. In layman's terms this often translates to “student clinic”. Offsite internship is not credited as part of the 600 mandatory hours of massage therapy instruction. (Notably, though, some Pennsylvania programs are much longer than 600 hours, and some do have their students out in the field.) Massage therapy students may also practice their new skills under indirect supervision, but they will not receive credit for these hours.

Any appropriately licensed school should deliver the basics. However, some do far more. Even a certificate program may include 900 hours of training. Some students opt for degrees. An associate’s degree program will include a limited amount of general education. It may include additional massage therapy practice, for example, an internship.

Some Pennsylvania massage therapists opt for national board certification as well as licensure. Students who want the extra title should select schools that have been assigned testing codes by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Pennsylvania boasts more than 20 assigned schools (http://www.ncbtmb.org/tools/find-approved-school).

Board certified massage therapists have completed at least 750 hours of education and training. However, some initially attended shorter programs; the difference can be made up through continuing education. Pennsylvania has many approved continuing education providers – far more even than it has initial programs. Some are schools; some are individuals. The breadth is tremendous. Continuing education allows practitioners to discover new modalities (for example, trigger point, sports massage, Thai massage, myofascial release, lomi lomi, neuromuscular therapy, cupping) and to increase their expertise working with special populations (fibromyalgia, postural disorders, oncology). They can improve their practice in other ways such as learning to be more environmentally oriented. Some practitioners opt for substantial blocks of coursework in fields such as reiki.

Schools, like individual students, can hold membership in the American Massage Therapy Association. AMTA sets fairly basic standards for membership. However, membership may indicate a level of professional commitment. AMTA is one of two professional associations referenced in state code. The other is Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals (ABMP). Pennsylvania’s massage therapists are expected to abide by the ethics codes set by these organizations. Fully 26 Pennsylvania schools are AMTA members. The AMTA website includes basic information about member schools (https://www.amtamassage.org/schools/index.html).

Ultimately, it’s a complex healthcare world that massage therapists are entering into, and they may want a well-rounded education. The Lancaster Online featured an article about a nurse educator who was traveling across Pennsylvania to educate doctors about the dangers of, and alternatives to, opioid pain medications (http://lancasteronline.com/news/local/this-pennsylvania-woman-drives-miles-a-day-visiting-doctors-to/article_a3a29d06-51e0-11e7-83e5-ebaa067903d0.html). Massage was an option, along with tai chi and acupuncture, but cost could be an obstacle. In some states, though, governmental entities have shown interest in trialing massage.

Career Outlook and Average Salary

In Pennsylvania, the median massage therapist wage is $17.52 an hour. As in other places, there is a wide range of salaries, depending on one’s expertise, the industry in which he or she is employed, and other employment circumstances. 10% of the state’s massage therapists earn less than $8.32 an hour; another 10%, though, earn more than $32.37.

Reported wages in the Southern Pennsylvania nonmetropolitan area are the highest in the state at $24.21. (This is in marked contrast to some of the state’s other nonmetropolitan areas where wages are low.) Among the state’s metropolitan areas, Lancaster tops the list with a median wage of $22.36. The median wage is $21.75 in the Scranton/ Wilkes/ Barre/ Hazleton area; in the York/ Hanover area, it is $19.93. The following are average wages for other Pennsylvania population centers:

  • Allentown/ Bethlehem/ Easton: $15.73
  • Montgomery, Bucks, and Chester County metropolitan division: $17.59
  • Philadelphia area: $16.92
  • Harrisburg-Carlisle: $17.53
  • Pittsburg: $18.09

Pennsylvania has been projected to see 19.2% massage therapist occupational growth during the 2014 to 2024 decade (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm). This would take the state from a base of 3,160 up to 3,770!