A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in South Dakota: Complete an initial program in as little as six to nine months

Massage therapy and other alternative and complementary health practices are entering the mainstream. In 2016, the Argus Leader reported on the successes of the South Dakota VA in reaching veterans through Eastern practices (http://www.argusleader.com/story/news/2017/06/16/vets-find-relief-through-eastern-medicine/397247001/). The vast majority of the referrals were for pain. The therapies were met with enthusiasm on the part of the veterans. A representative for the integrative health center noted that massage therapy and acupressure “went like gangbusters”.

Enthusiasm for massage is not hard to come by. Nor is a career… at least not in many instances. It takes aptitude to become a massage therapist. It takes some formal education, too, but a person can complete an initial program in as little as six to nine months. From there, one can continue to develop their skills through continuing education.

Select a South Dakota Massage Therapy School Topic:

South Dakota Massage Therapy School Standards

A student who enrolls in a program explicitly approved by the South Dakota Board can expect it to meet standards. Currently there are nine such programs listed on the Board website (https://doh.sd.gov/boards/massage/education.aspx).

Other schools may be approved on the basis of meeting standards in both of the following areas: 1) approval or authorization and 2) curriculum. A school is considered to be authorized if it is approved or licensed in its home state. A school can also be recognized on the basis of any of the accreditations listed on the Board website (https://doh.sd.gov/boards/massage). The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is the accrediting agency specifically focused on massage therapy, but various accreditations are acceptable. (Accreditation will vary somewhat based on the overall mission of the institution that houses the massage therapy program or school.) Accepted accrediting bodies include the Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES) and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSCT).

South Dakota students must complete courses of study that meet the following minimum curriculum distribution:

  • Body systems/ anatomy/ physiology/ kinesiology: 125 hours
  • Theory, application, and assessment: 200 hours
  • Pathology: 40 hours
  • Business and ethics: 10 hours

The remaining 125 hours are to be in some area that theoretically completes the course of study. This will, of course, vary by program. South Dakota programs must meet the same minimum standards, but they are not expected to deliver an identical curriculum, even if they are relatively short. (Programs, moreover, often exceed the minimum length by a couple hundred hours.)

Massage Therapy School Options

Programs often include more coursework in the mandated or basic areas of study. They may introduce a variety of modalities, for example, Swedish massage, acupressure, reflexology, and sports massage. There may be a significant block of time at the end devoted to clinical practice. The student may even have the option of completing an associate’s degree; this could entail completing an internship as well as taking some general studies coursework.

Massage therapy schools may introduce students to therapies that are not technically massage. Examples include aromatherapy and even nutrition. Programs may operate under the philosophy that it is important to consider the whole person while staying within the scope of practice set by one’s state legislature.

If there is a wide breadth of coursework, of course, students may get only get only a little exposure to the many bodywork modalities. Specialization may require more training and education down the line.

Programs are distinguished in many ways, from their philosophy to their schedule and pacing. Location will be a consideration for many South Dakota residents. Sometimes a person has to travel to go to massage school -- it is worth noting, though, that some massage schools are located in scenic hideaways.

NBCTMB-Assigned Massage Therapy Programs

A person who visits the website of the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) will notice a good deal of similarity between South Dakota's minimum curricular distribution and those of the NCBTMB (http://www.ncbtmb.org/schools/assigned-schools). This does not mean that a South Dakota program has to be evaluated or assigned a code by the NCBTMB – there are very few places in the nation where this is required.

It can be advantageous to attend an assigned program, particularly if one plans to pursue prestigious national board certification as a complement to state licensing. Completion of an assigned program is the only standard path to examination eligibility, though some massage therapists may be granted eligibility following portfolio review. Massage therapists who seek board certification must complete no fewer than 750 total education hours. College coursework is an acceptable adjunct to a shorter massage therapy program; so is NCBTMB-approved continuing education. South Dakota massage therapists can use continuing education to develop their skill in modalities such as Thai, reiki, or hot stone massage. They can even study to be massage instructors themselves!

Currently, a search reveals three assigned South Dakota schools. They are located in Hermosa, Mitchell, and Sioux Falls.

After Graduation: Career Outlook and Average Salary

South Dakota massage therapist employment has been projected to increase 13.8% across the 2014 to 2024 decade (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm).

South Dakota massage therapists enjoy a median wage of $17.23 an hour. The range of reported salaries is not as great as in some states: 80% of the state’s massage therapists make between $10.59 and $25.22. This doesn’t mean that it’s not possible, though, to increase one’s earnings beyond $25.22 (or to start below $10.59). Expertise and savvy can make the difference.

Average wages in Rapid City and Sioux Falls are very slightly above the state average ($17.43 and $18.12 respectively). The reported 10th percentile wage in the Sioux Falls area is higher than in other parts of the state: $14.41.