The federal government does not regulate massage therapy. Rather, the profession is governed by individual state laws that vary greatly from state to state. Indeed, some states have no licensure requirement for massage therapists at all, so depending upon where you are, your therapist may have thousands of hours of education, or no mandated training at all. So, if you are looking for a professional massage, by a therapist trained to identify problems and contraindications, and to administer a safe and effective massage, you may want to do a little homework before choosing your therapist.
Oregon Massage Therapists
Here, in Oregon, massage therapists are regulated by the state department of health. A licensed therapist is first required to complete 625 hours of specialized training at a state-approved massage school. Graduates must, then pass both a written and a practical exam before earning a license. Additionally, therapists are required to complete 25 state-approved continuing education hours every 2 years in order to maintain active licensure. Oregon also requires all therapists to maintain certification in CPR (cardio pulmonary resuscitation). Oregon is one of only two states that require therapists be certified in CPR. Of course proof of liability insurance is required by state licensing boards, as well it should be.
While I have 2 college degrees, several certifications and thousands of hours of continuing education in a wide variety of massage, holistic health, and personal training disciplines, all I am really required to have in order to practice in Oregon is a massage license.
Therapists in Oregon are required, by law, to have our license on the premises where we work, as well as on every form of advertising. This is important to note, not only in order to ensure that you are paying for the services of a licensed professional, rather than a non-licensed “bodyworker” practicing illegally (of which there are many), but also because license numbers can provide insight into how long a therapist has been practicing, and therefore how much experience he/she might have.
General Massage Therapist Licensing & Certifications
In general, of course, the lower the license number, the longer a therapist has been in practice. That being said, I was working in my massage career for a full decade in Texas before moving to Oregon, so my situation maybe be somewhat unique. When I moved to Oregon in 1995, this state required 30 more education hours than those required by the state of Texas, so I needed to take additional classes in order to become licensed here. So while my license number is a relatively low #5525, of course, it does not reflect my previous years of experience outside the state of Oregon. At this point in time, close to 20,000 additional therapists have been licensed in Oregon since I received my license in the mid ‘90’s, so you will now find recently licensed therapists with license numbers in the 25000 range.
So, even though a given therapist may have passed the exams and is legally able to practice in your state, it may not be readily apparent as to how much actual experience may be under their belts. While the standard Swedish massage technique may be mastered quickly, and is really the only expertise tested for licensure, quality deep tissue, legitimate therapeutic work, and dealing with injury rehab are completely different issues. In general, (and this is my opinion,) it takes a solid 10 years or more working with all types of bodies and situations to truly excel in this field. So, if you are looking for the latter form of massage, you may want to be sure that your LMT is experienced in the type of therapy you need, over and above the base requirements for licensing.
All of this being said however, like any other profession, passion, integrity, and a true desire to serve and heal others cannot be measured by the number of hours of education. Caring about people and loving one’s work goes a long way in helping us to learn what we need to give you a quality massage, and can many times somewhat make up for a lack of experience. Good therapists, regardless of experience, will know and be honest as to their limitations, the services they offer and the rates that they charge.
Only a half dozen states require more education hours than Oregon, while most have settled on 500.
Many states have fewer requirements and there are still plenty of states with no licensing requirement at all.
Currently Massage therapists are licensed in 43 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Massage therapists must practice within the scope of practice defined within these state licensure laws.
Florida and Hawaii were the first states to enact laws for licensure back in the 1940’s, followed by Arkansas and Oregon in1951. Many states have only had laws in effect for the past 10 years!
California is currently the only state that has “certification” – a totally voluntary process that is not required in order to practice, and with no continuing education hours required at all.
For more information and a complete breakdown of requirements (or lack thereof) by state, visit:
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