Massage Therapy Schools in Tennessee: The Specifics You Should Know
A student who enrolls in therapeutic massage school in Tennessee will receive an education comparable to that provided in many other jurisdictions but will receive some state-specific content. Tennessee is very specific about what must be covered in the massage therapy curriculum (and in how a school will enroll and treat its students). However, the state sets only the minimum standards. In Tennessee, as in other states, many massage therapy schools choose to go beyond the minimum.
Tennessee programs may draw their authorization from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission or the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Select a Tennessee a Massage Therapy School Topic:
- The Tennessee Massage Therapy School Curriculum
- Going to Massage Therapy School in Tennessee: Basic Expectations
- Massage Therapy Program Options
- Massage Therapy License Requirements in Tennessee
- Beyond Massage School: Salary and Career Development
The Tennessee Massage Therapy School Curriculum
A Tennessee program will include at least 200 hours of coursework in sciences; this content area comprises anatomy, pathology, kinesiology, physiology, and hygiene/ blood-borne pathogens. Massage therapy rules state that both Eastern and Western physiology are acceptable.
The program will also include at least 200 hours of coursework in massage theory and practice. This training will include subjects such as client assessment and the benefits and contradictions of massage as well as training in basic techniques for soft tissue manipulation. Manipulative techniques will include kneading, stretching, percussion, and joint movements, among others; also included are draping, positioning, and personal body mechanics.
The hands-on portion of a Board-approved course will have a relatively low instructor-student ratio (no more than 14:1).
The program will include no fewer than 10 hours of ethics. There is a separate laws and rules requirement. At least 5 hours will be devoted to Tennessee laws and rules governing massage. Among the topics will be scope of practice, establishment licenses, continuing education requirements, and functions of the Board website.
This leaves 85 additional mandatory training hours. There are a number of other Board-identified subjects important to massage therapy practice, among them, communication skills, business standards, first aid, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Board expects some coverage of specialized and adjunct therapies.
A student will, before graduation, receive at least two hours of education about the Tennessee impaired practitioner assistance program.
The Board notes that Tennessee programs will include curriculum that corresponds with that found in the licensing examination.
There is generally no need for an in-state Tennessee student to count hours. Tennessee schools need to be up-to-date on licensing requirements. Board-approved programs provide information to students about the state’s licensing requirements even before application. The Department of Health has provided a list of approved schools (https://www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/health-professional-boards/ml-board.html). A student who attends an out-of-state school, though, will likely need to do some counting. While nearly all states require at least 500 hours of education, they don’t all mandate the same distribution of hours. They may, for example, set a lower minimum for science coursework.
An out-of-state graduate who applies for licensure in Tennessee will need to demonstrate the requisite hours in Board-identified content areas. An applicant can be approved on the basis of having attended an out-of-state school that has been approved by an entity equivalent to Tennessee’s Higher Education Commission.
Even reciprocity applicants must have coursework in Tennessee law.
Going to Massage Therapy School in Tennessee: Basic Expectations
Tennessee has rules in place to protect massage therapy students. Directors and instructors must meet standards set at the state level. Every school is required to file an annual report. Tennessee has set basic rules for admission. A prospective student must be at least 18, a high school graduate, and not have been convicted of sexual misconduct or prosecution.
Students can expect to receive important materials such as syllabus and policies and procedures documents before their first class. They will also receive information about the approved massage therapy examination.
A Tennessee massage therapy student may eventually find himself or herself asking for a letter of recommendation from one or more of the instructors, as the Tennessee Massage Licensure Board requires recent letters of reference from health professionals; the focus is on character and ethics. (In some instances, though, a school may ask for healthcare references even before enrollment.)
Massage Therapy Program Options
Students can expect to get some exposure to multiple modalities. However, the specific modalities and the amount of coverage will vary a good deal. The program may emphasize Swedish massage, a modality that is at the foundation of Western practice. Conversely, it may provide considerable exposure to Eastern bodywork practices and to the mind-body connection. While Tennessee does have programs as short as 500 hours, some are 900. Longer programs can of course offer more breadth and depth. There may be various innovative offerings, for example, research literacy. There is a growing body of evidence that massage is healthcare – and in some cases, a viable alternative to more risky treatments. By learning to utilize databases, a massage therapist can inform their own practice and also help build the profession.
There is a good deal of variation, too, in how much pre-licensure practice students receive. Some, but not all, Tennessee programs include a student clinic where students practice on members of the public. By the same token, some but not all programs provide career services.
Students may wish to seek enrollment in programs with accreditations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. They may wish to seek enrollment in schools assigned codes by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. Tennessee has seven assigned schools (https://www.ncbtmb.org/schools-students/).
Another consideration is pass rate on the state licensing examination. The Department of Health has provided information about first-time pass rate of schools. Pass rate is a factor in continued approval.
After Graduation: Career Outlook and Average Salary
The median massage therapist wage in Tennessee is $16.05 an hour; this is based on data from May of 2016. Wages are highest in the Kingsport-Bristol area. These figures also include a small portion of Virginia. Here, massage therapists enjoy a median $18.68 an hour. Salaries are lowest in the Memphis area; this is a district that also includes portions of neighboring Arkansas and Mississippi. Here the median is just $8.95. In the Nashville/ Davidson/ Murfreesboro/ Franklin area, the average is $16.89; in the Knoxville area, $17.23.
Tennessee has been projected to enjoy 27.7% growth in massage therapist employment levels between 2014 and 2024.