A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Rhode Island: A new career can be in reach in less than a year

Massage therapy is showing up in unlikely places -- or at least places that once might have been thought unlikely. The Providence Journal recently spotlighted a health fair for musicians which featured massage therapy among other practices; at attendance was one of the state’s massage therapy schools (http://www.providencejournal.com/entertainmentlife/20170607/health-fair-concert-offers-help-for-ri-musicians). The Courant Community, meanwhile, let its readership know that senior-friendly massage was offered onsite at the Windsor Senior Center on a weekly basis (http://www.courant.com/community/windsor/hc-wn-0629-windsor-20170627-story.html).

From bleary-eyed touring musicians to retirees: So many can benefit from massage. The list of beneficiaries includes the therapists themselves. Massage therapy is a growing field. It takes formal education to earn a license, yet it takes a lot less schooling than physical therapy. For those with the aptitude, the state's massage therapy schools can put a new career in reach in less than a year.

Select a Rhode Island Massage Therapy School Topic:

Rhode Island Educational Standards

In Rhode Island, educational standards are set at what is commonly regarded as the minimum national level. The state’s schools, though, tend to offer a good deal more than what is mandated.

State administrative code stipulates that applicants complete programs that are either accredited by the Commission on Massage Therapy Education (COMTA) or judged equivalent. In order to be judged equivalent by the Rhode Island Department of Health, a program must have the explicit purpose of preparing massage therapists. It must have the approval of the state where it is located. The total length can be no fewer than 500 hours. The program must include 300 hours of massage theory and practice. It must include 100 hours of anatomy and physiology. (This component is to be theory, not practice – the student will be hitting the books.)

State code allows for 150 hours of coursework that may be termed electives. There are a number of acceptable related subjects, including business practice. Ethics is an expected part of the curriculum. (Note: Many jurisdictions set minimum hours in at least some of the areas that fall under the elective category in Rhode Island regulation.)

A student who enrolls in a current COMTA-accredited program will get a good deal more training than what is “on the books” in Rhode Island. COMTA’s current standards require 600 hours of education. Programs are evaluated according to a detailed set of standards.

Education for Mobility

A student who lives close to the Massachusetts or Connecticut border may wish to consider those standards as well. A student who selects a Rhode Island school will, in many cases, be able to achieve Massachusetts or Connecticut licensure. The student should be aware that Massachusetts sets a higher total requirement. Connecticut sets the same minimum number of program hours – 500 – but there are some differences in requirements. Connecticut requires that programs have been reviewed and assigned test codes by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork.

Assignment by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork is often regarded as a status; it is valued to varying degrees around the nation. One benefit is that it is a prerequisite for adjunct national board certification. Rhode Island has four assigned schools -- an impressive number for such a small state (http://www.ncbtmb.org/tools/find-approved-school). Assigned schools are located in Lincoln, Newport, East Providence, and West Warwick.

Massage therapists who seek board certification must do at least 750 hours of training, though it does not all have to be done as part of the initial program. (Rhode Island’s assigned programs are all at least close to this length; most are over.)

The state’s assigned schools are a varied set. One draws its inspiration from Ayurveda and gives students the opportunity to earn specialty certifications. Another offers an Associate of Applied Science option as well as a certificate program.

All Rhode Island's assigned schools also boast institutional membership in the American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA).

Other Considerations When Choosing a Program

There are practical considerations. Program length is variable. A student may complete a certificate or diploma program in about nine months. Courses may be offered in the day or evening. There may be flexible scheduling options. Programs may be modular or cohort-based.

Massage therapy programs may or may not qualify the student for traditional financial aid. Accreditation is a determining factor. Thus, students may want to consider programs with accreditations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Licensing examination pass rate is also worth taking into consideration.

Education for Skill and Career Development

Students may have internship opportunities. Internship is not necessarily included as part of the basic program but may involve a second application process. The Community College of Rhode Island offers two different levels of advanced hospital-based training.

Massage therapy schools recognize that education is an ongoing process. A massage therapist who wants to increase his or her areas of competence can do so through continuing education. Ayuverdic training is particularly well represented in Rhode Island, but there are a number of options.

Career Outlook and Average Salary

Rhode Island massage therapists make a median $17.44 an hour, according to data compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (https://data.bls.gov/oes/). Salaries are highly variable. Just half the state’s massage therapists have hourly wages between $11.47 and $24.11. (25% fall below this range; another 25% make more.)

Data has also been released for the Providence area; this metropolitan region includes a small portion of bordering Massachusetts. The median hourly wage is similar: $17.17. The 10th percentile wage is the same as it is for the state as a whole: $9.69.

Statewide, 10.4% occupational growth has been projected for the 2014 to 2024 decade (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm).