A State by State Massage Therapist Licensure Guide

Massage Therapy Schools in Wisconsin: Programs can be a resource at many points along the way

Wisconsin has standards in place for massage and bodywork schools as well as practitioners. State code not only sets a minimum required curriculum, but stipulates what kinds of institutions are allowed to offer programs. Approved Minnesota programs can be a resource at many points along the way.

Schools incorporate the same core content areas but offer a good deal of variety. The state’s licensure and educational standards are designed to reflect that not all bodywork is massage in the classic Western or Swedish style.

The foundation is a high school diploma or equivalency.

Select a Wisconsin Massage Therapy School Topic:

Attending an Approved Massage Therapy School in Wisconsin

According to state code, massage or bodywork therapy programs can be accepted if they are 1) accredited or 2) offered by a technical college. A technical college may award either a technical diploma or associate's degree.

On the licensing application, students will answer three questions about their program’s approvals and accreditations: whether the program was offered by a technical school, whether it was accredited, and whether it was approved by the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, or EAB. Under current policy, graduates of EAB-approved programs don't even need to submit transcripts with their applications. The EAB website can be a valuable resource. Prospective students can search the EAB database to find approved programs. The application provides some basic information like whether the program awards a diploma or degree or what percentage of those who enrolled in the program completed it and what percentage dropped out along the way. Some percentages, notably, are based on very small numbers of enrollees. (The school may be a massage practice, but also approved to offer education and training.)

State code defines accreditation to include state, national, and regional accreditors. Some, but not all, Wisconsin programs hold national accreditation through organizations such as the National Accrediting Commission of Cosmetology Arts and Science (NACCAS). NACCAS accredits cosmetology schools.

Minimum Massage Therapy Program Requirements

A Wisconsin program will be at least 600 hours.

Anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology will together comprise at least 125 hours.

Massage or bodywork theory, technique, and practice will comprise no less than 300 hours. Of these, at least 100 will consist of hands-on practice.

Another 50 hours will be devoted to business practice, law, and ethics. Students can expect Wisconsin’s legal requirements to receive at least six hours of coverage. They will take the state law examination before graduation -- this is mandated under state code.

Students can expect to come away having had CPR training; here the requirement is just 5 hours.

Experience in a student clinic will comprise at least 20 hours.

Additional Massage Therapy Program Options

The remaining coursework is, in some sense, discretionary but must relate to massage and bodywork. In general, schools have no problem coming up with useful topics. While there are some programs in the neighborhood of 600 hours, one will find plenty of 750-hour programs in Wisconsin.

Programs often manage to give some coverage to a number of bodywork modalities, both Eastern and Western; offerings however, will vary. Common modalities include reflexology, shiatsu, hot stone massage, myofascial therapy, lymphatic massage, and trigger point – this is in addition to the classic Swedish massage that many people think of when they think of massage. A longer program can of course include more, but a massage therapist can't necessarily expect to learn everything that he or she will need for a successful lifelong career from that initial program. License maintenance requires some continuing education, and there are opportunities to go far beyond this in exploring one’s interests. Students may want some knowledge of their options before completion of the original program. Schools may even note the ability to further one’s growth through continuing education among the exit competencies.

There is much to explore in the world of massage therapy! Advanced study can teach practitioners to work effectively with special populations as well as increase their knowledge of specialized modalities. Among those populations are children with autism – as one Greendale mom (and pediatric massage therapist) knows well (https://www.massagemag.com/massage-benefits-autistic-children-for-a-lifetime-84033-84033/). Other special populations include infants, expectant mothers, the elderly, and people with various chronic illnesses.

Education for Certification

One reason that some programs include a full 750 hours: They are preparing their students to become board certified once they have had a little qualifying experience out in the field. Assignment of an examination code by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, though, is more fundamental than the inclusion of that extra 150 hours. Students who complete assigned programs will be able to make up the deficit in hours in multiple ways, including NCBTMB-approved continuing education offerings. Wisconsin has 11 assigned programs. Practitioners may sometimes be approved for board certification following portfolio review, but pre-approval of education by the NCBTMB is the standard route, and the quickest one. Individuals can search for either initial education or continuing education on the NCBTMB website (http://www.ncbtmb.org).

Career Outlook and Average Salary

Wisconsin massage therapists enjoy a median $18.10 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There is of course a wide range of earnings. Just 50% earn between $13.43 and $22.97 an hour. Location within the state accounts for only a part of the variability. Wages are highest in Madison. Here the median is $26.79. But just half fall within $16.11 and $30.41.

The following are averages for other Wisconsin cities and nonmetropolitan areas:

  • La Crosse/ Onalaska: $19.25
  • Milwaukee/ Waukesha/ West Alice: $18.26
  • Appleton: $11.79
  • South Central nonmetropolitan area: $9.62

Massage therapist around the state do find or create opportunities. 10% of the massage therapists in the South Central nonmetropolitan area make above $29.27.

Wisconsin massage therapist employment levels have been predicted to increase by 10.8% between 2014 and 2024. Currently, job concentration is higher in the La Crosse/ Onalaska area than in any other reporting district.