A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Washington State

Washington has a wide range of massage therapy schools supporting its thriving massage industry. All approved schools are subject to standards set at the state level. Schools may differ, though, in the amount of attention given to the various modalities and client populations as state code describes only the minimum course content.

Select a Washington Massage Therapy School Topic:

Washington State Massage Therapy Program Standards

Washington massage therapy programs are at least 500 hours. This is the number that will need to be reflected on the transcript. However, the school may note that there are considerable requirements for out-of-class studying and practice. Washington code stipulates that programs be completed in no less than six months.

Washington programs include at least 130 hours of anatomy and physiology coursework. Kinesiology is considered a sub-topic; this subject area must constitute at least 40 hours.

Another 50 program hours, at minimum, will be spent in the study of pathology. Massage indications and contraindications will both receive coverage.

A minimum 265 hours will be devoted to massage theory and practice. The student will learn the physiological effects of the techniques presented. Therapist body mechanics will be among the other topics addressed. Up to 50 hours of this content area may be credited for time spent in a student clinic.

Clinical and business practices will comprise an additional 55 hours. The following will be among the topics covered: medical terminology, hygiene, record keeping, client interactions, and applicable laws, both state and local.

The student will receive four hours of HIV/ AIDS training.

The Washington Department of Health has provided a list of approved programs (http://www.doh.wa.gov/LicensesPermitsandCertificates/ProfessionsNewReneworUpdate/MassageTherapist/EducationRequirements). The list includes some that are located out-of-state. However, a prospective massage therapist does not generally need to be concerned that an out-of-state program does not appear on the list. Washington has simplified the process for approving attendees of out-of-state schools and is no longer conducting these reviews.

Massage Therapy Program Options in Washington

Practical instruction begins with basic techniques that are the building blocks for massage. There are many modalities of massage and bodywork that build from these techniques, and programs will need to choose which ones to emphasize. Common modalities include Swedish, deep tissue, trigger point, and neuromuscular massage.

Some programs are significantly longer than the 500 mandated hours. They may offer additional training in clinical massage and/ or spa treatments that are often performed in conjunction with massage (e.g. body wraps). Aromatherapy is a common inclusion.

Some Washington programs hold national accreditation through organizations such as the Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA). While COMTA is the accreditation most closely associated with the massage therapy profession – and is especially highly regarded – other accreditations also hold value. There is a connection between accreditations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and financial aid opportunities.

Some Washington programs have been assigned testing codes through the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork. This is not accreditation. NCBTMB-approved education represents a first step for those who want a second, adjunct credential: national board certification. There are eight assigned schools in Washington State. A majority are in the greater Seattle area, dotting the landscape from Kirkland to Federal Way. One will find a couple programs in Spokane and a couple in smaller municipalities; Twisp has one. NCBTMB-assigned programs are often longer ones; a total of 750 hours of education is required for board certification. There are multiple options, though, for those who complete assigned programs between 500 and 750 hours. One option involves earning continuing education through NCBTMB-approved providers. Some massage therapists will have creditable college coursework.

Other considerations include licensing examination pass rate and instructor experience/ expertise. Some students will need to consider location, but those in metropolitan areas will find themselves with quite a few options.

Massage School Admission

Under Washington law, a massage therapist must be at least 18. However, students may find schools that will allow them to enroll as young as age 17 ½ .

In general, programs want to see indicators of success, not academic accolades. The school may recommend that prospective enrollees check with a doctor to make sure they can handle the physical demands of massage. Some schools include an interview as part of the admission process.

Schools may or may not have policies in place for acceptance of transfer credit – this is an area where a prospective massage therapist may want to do some research. Transfer credit is governed by state law (http://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=18.108.028).

Education for Related Massage and Bodywork Certifications and Endorsements

In Washington State, there is a separate certification process for professionals who practice only reflexology or who wish to call themselves certified reflexologists. Professionals practicing only reflexology can be credentialed on the basis of 200-hour programs.

Those wishing to perform animal massage, on the other hand, need to complete massage therapy programs and additional training in animal massage.

Career Outlook and Average Salary

There are a lot of very positive indicators. 2016 BLS statistics place Washington at number four with regard to massage therapist job concentration, number 5 with regard to mean or average pay (https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes319011.htm). Washington State's massage therapist employment levels have been projected to increase by 41.3% in the 2014 to 2014 decade; this represents the highest rate of growth in the nation.

The Seattle/ Bellevue/ Everett area ranks number four in the nation for massage therapist employment levels. This reflects the population of the metropolitan area as well as the popularity of massage. It's the Olympia/ Tumwater area that's nationally ranked for job concentration -- coming in at number 10 when ranked against all metropolitan areas in the nation.

The median Washington hourly wage is $27.21; those at the 10th percentile earn $16.03 while those at the 90th percentile make fully $38.26. Location in the state is just one factor that influences earnings. In the Seattle/ Bellevue/ Everett area, the median hourly wage is $27.89. Those at the 10th percentile earn $16.15 while those at the 90th percentile earn $39.45; this is a distribution not so different from that of the state as a whole. The median in the Spokane/ Spokane Valley area is $24.11, with 80% earning between $16.91 and $34.79. In the Tacoma/ Lakewood area, the median is $24.98, with 80% earning between $15.60 and $35.68.

The Cortiva Institute has provided a list of Washington employers, and it's quite a long list (http://www.cortiva.com/seattle-employers-thankyou.aspx)! The following are among those noted:

  • Apple Physical Therapy
  • Planet Earth Yoga Center
  • Canyon Ranch Spa
  • Renaissance Family Chiropractic
  • Solei Day Spa
  • Washington Athletic Club
  • Worksite Massage
  • Wellsprings Dog H20 & Massage Therapy

Of course the state also has its share of Massage Envy franchises.