A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Virginia

Virginia sets basic standards for massage therapy schools but allows for a lot of variety and innovation. Students can select programs that suit their massage and wellness philosophies as well as their lifestyle. A student can opt for a basic 500 hour program or one of 600, 750, or even 1,000 hours. Massage therapists in Virginia, like those in other states, continue to hone their skills through continuing education.

Select a Virginia Massage Therapy School Topic:

The Minimum Standard: Selecting an Authorized Massage Therapy Program

A massage therapy program must be at least 500 hours. A school that is located in Virginia, additionally, must have the authorization of the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Prospective students can search for programs on the SCHEV website using the CIC code 51.3501(http://www.schev.edu/index/students-and-parents/explore/degree-inventory).

Students who attend schools physically located in other states can also achieve a qualifying education; their schools will draw their authority from different agencies. All Virginia’s bordering states set standards at at least 500 hours – some go higher.

There are a lot of in-state options. Programs are offered by community colleges and by career colleges; the latter may be specifically focused on massage or may offer other health sciences or aesthetics programs. Some programs offered by Virginia’s community colleges offer traditional academic credit. However, some are non-credit. Virginia massage students may earn any of the following credentials, depending on the type and length of the program: Career Studies Certificate (CSC), Associate of Applied Science (AAS), Associate of Occupational Science (AOS), diploma, or certificate.

Curricular Standards and Options

There are some general curricular expectations around the nation. These are frequently, but not universally, articulated and mandated. Students can expect some education in foundational human sciences such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology. They learn basic techniques for manipulating soft tissue. They typically learn several modalities and spend time practicing on classmates (and being practiced on); they may eventually also have the opportunity to practice on members of the public. Future practitoiners learn both the benefits and contradictions of massage techniques as they relate to different populations. The course also includes various professional practice standards from hygiene to legalities and ethics. Students are typically given some training in taking care of themselves; an understanding of personal body mechanics is important to preventing injury.

Courses vary in terms of the extent to which they emphasize bodywork modalities other than traditional Western ones and the extent to which they cover allied modalities that are often used in conjunction with massage.

Some schools offer multiple program options with different numbers of contact hours. Programs can be organized in varied ways. The student may, for example, take a core of mandatory courses and then have the option of selecting from various electives to complete their studies. The following are among the courses that may be included as electives: myofascial massage, sports massage, prenatal massage, craniosacral therapy, and treatment of fibromyalgia patients. Electives may be offered for an academic term or made available in short workshop form. The student may have the option of taking other health and wellness coursework such as nutrition to round out a degree program. An associate degree program will include a little general studies coursework; examples include critical thinking, composition, and human factors.

Programs also vary in their guiding philosophies. The school may place massage within a holistic framework and may cite the influence of different traditions (European, Asian, Native American). Longer programs sometimes give considerable work-related opportunities. One 700+ hour program boasts a spa-style student clinic and an externship in a physical therapist’s office.

While certification by SCHEV is most fundamental, other organizations can serve as additional validators of quality; their approval can result in tangible benefits. Some Virginia programs are nationally accredited through organizations such as the Commission of Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) or the Council on Occupational Excellence (COE). COMTA now offers a curriculum approval process as well as a more involved accreditation process.

A majority of Virginia programs have been assigned codes by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. The state boasts an impressive 21 options. How important is the code? This depends largely on whether one plans to seek board certification as a supplement to state licensing. (Additionally, there are some places in the nation that place high value on NCBTMB approval.)

Career Outlook and Average Salary

Analysts have predicted 26.6% growth in massage therapist employment levels in Virginia between 2014 and 2024 (http://www.projectionscentral.com/Projections/LongTerm). If so, it would bring 1,130 more massage therapists onto the scene!

The median hourly wage for a Virginia massage therapist is $16.36. 80% of the state’s massage therapists have hourly earnings between $8.64 and $31.00, though 10% fall on either end of this spectrum.

Massage therapists in the Virginia Beach/ Norfolk/ Newport News area enjoy hourly wages that exceed those of most of the state; here the median is $15.85. Salaries at the high end, though, tend to be better in the Harrisonburg area: The median is a slightly lower $14.84, but the 75th percentile hourly figure is $27.67; the 90th percentile figure, an impressive $38.09. Massage therapists in the Northwestern nonmetropolitan area have the lowest wages in the state, with a median of just $9.43. On the other hand, they have the Blue Ridge Mountains not far away. And in the state’s northernmost metropolitan areas? Massage therapists in the greater DC area not surprisingly make more than many of their counterparts across the state.