Massage Career

There are several benefits to pursuing a career in massage therapy, including:

  1. Flexibility: Massage therapy careers offer flexible work hours and the ability to work independently or in a spa or clinic setting.
  2. Personal fulfillment: Massage therapists have the opportunity to help people reduce stress and improve their overall wellness.
  3. Job growth: The demand for massage therapy services is expected to increase as more people seek alternative forms of health and wellness treatment and more insurance companies cover massage services.  Massage therapist job opportunities have risen since the pandemic.
  4. Competitive earnings: Massage therapists can earn a good income, with the potential for higher earnings with experience and specialization.
  5. Professional development: Massage therapists have opportunities for continuing education and professional development to enhance their skills and stay current in the field.

Overall, a career in massage therapy can offer a rewarding and fulfilling work-life balance for individuals who are passionate about helping others and promoting wellness.  Few professions are as easy to travel with, pay as much per hour, provide as much scheduling flexibility, and result in as many happy clients.

massage therapy

Massage Styles and Modalities

There are literally hundreds of massage therapy modalities in existence, and most massage schools teach primarily swedish-style massage. PCAB offers professional instruction in standard bodywork modalities such as Swedish, Lomilomi, Shiatsu, and Thai massage, and our focus is primarily on slow-movement, deep-listening therapies that are based on the latest (neuro)science of touch and interoception. The “best” style of massage is the one that is the most effective for meeting the client’s biological and psychological needs as well as fitting your preferences for the types of issues you want to focus on, how you prefer to move during a massage, and what your career goals are.  Ultimately, there are only so many ways to touch the body, so while we teach separate modalities, our emphasis is to make you skillful in a broad variety of touch styles so that you can apply them in a customized manner that is most appropriate for exploring your client’s goals

Six components of the therapeutic encounter

Swedish massage is the standard style of massage practiced in North America, and it’s the style that has been most studied. Swedish massage was developed with anatomy and physiology in mind, so each stroke is designed, in theory, in terms of how it will affect the muscular system, the nervous system, and the circulatory and lymphatic systems. Sometimes it is referred to as Relaxation massage or spa massage because it tends to be practiced in a manner that maximizes relaxation.
Lomilomi is the polynesian style of style that is characterized by long, fluid strokes and a fair amount of oil.
Thai massage involves the use of compressions and stretches.  It can be performed on a table or on the floor and does not require oils.
Neuromuscular Therapy, also known as Trigger Point, is a modality that focuses on the relationship between the nervous system and the muscles and is practiced by applying static, perpendicular pressure to specific points on the body. The static holding is in contrast to the fluid movement of Swedish massage. The NMT points are conceptually unrelated to acupuncture/acupressure points, but the technique is similar.
Shiatsu is a form of bodywork from Japan that involves holding points throughout the body.  It can be performed on a table or on the floor and does not require oils.
Cranialsacral Therapy is a deep-listening form of bodywork that allows for an unwinding of the nervous system.  When it was first developed it was thought to work with the movement of cranial bones and a rhythmic movement of cerebrospinal fluid, though no evidence exists for either and both are thought to be the result of palpatory illusions of the therapist.
CTM is a form of bodywork that involves slow movement along the skin.  It’s slow speed makes it better for increasing body awareness than for increasing relaxation.  The “connective tissue” part of the name is a misnomer as the technique does not actually operate on connective tissue as was once speculated.
Fascia is a type of connective tissue that forms a continuous sheath around the body between the skin and the muscle while also wrapping and permeating each muscle.  For the last few decades, it was widely believed that fascia played a critical role in posture and that it was malleable through touch.  Research in the 21st century has thoroughly debunked these ideas and other tissue-based, operator-based, “fix-the-client” models.  In its place has arisen neurocentric, client-centered, inter-operator models that focus on neural patterns of sensory awareness and movement instead of fascia.  PCAB is one of the few places in the country that has adopted this new approach.  

Massage Licensing

The vast majority of US States and Canadian provinces require that massage therapists be licensed in order to practice massage therapy as a paid profession, and the requirements for each state are different. Most states require a minimum of 500 hours of training. One highly respected guideline (the Entry-Level Massage Education Blueprint) recommends a core curriculum of 625 hours. The average massage therapy training in the US is between 642 and 697 hours.

Most states (except Hawaii) that license massage therapists require a passing score on the Massage & Bodywork Licensing Exam (MBLEx) or one of two exams formerly (no longer) provided by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage & Bodywork (NCBTMB), and maintaining a license in most of those states requires continuing education hours.  This exam only needs to be passed once, and then the passing score can be used for licensing in all states that require it.  PCAB graduates have a consistently higher pass rate than the national average.  For 2021 and 2022, PCAB graduates had a 100% pass rate, compared to the 70% national average during that period.  One can signup for the MBLEx exam on the website for the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.

In Hawaii, which does it differently than most states, one needs 570 hours of coursework in massage in order to qualify to sit for Hawaii’s own exam.  Once this exam is passed, one only needs to pay the license renewal fee and submit 12 hours of CE credits every two years.  Massage trainings in Hawaii are approved through one of two routes: either Apprentice Programs approved by the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (most common) or Massage Schools through the Hawaii Department of Education (which is what PCAB utilizes). Only those approved by the DOE are allowed to call themselves schools, and these programs are the ones most similar to programs on the mainland since most of the hours are in a classroom setting, not in an apprenticeship setting (which is unique to Hawaii).  Note that many states (including CA and WA) do not accept hours from apprentice programs, so if one wants to be licensed outside of Hawaii, one needs to attend a DOE-licensed school such as PCAB.

The program at PCAB meets or exceeds the hour requirements for most states (except NE and NY).  This means that the hours acquired at PCAB can be transferred to your state so you can qualify for licensing in those states.  Most of our students who are now licensed massage therapists are from the states of HI, AK, WA, OR, CA, CO, NM, TX, MAPA, NC, and FL–hotlinks take you to the state’s massage licensing webpage.  See the table below for a quick reference for licensing in some states:

State Hours CPR First Aid Background
Exam URL
Hawaii 570 yes Hawaii URL
Alaska 625 yes yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Washington 625 yes yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Oregon 625 yes yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
California 500 yes see CAMTC website URL
Colorado 500 yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
New Mexico 650 yes yes yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Texas 500 yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Tennessee 500 yes yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Michigan 500 yes yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Massachusetts 650 none URL
Pennsylvania 600 yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
North Carolina 500 yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL
Florida 500 no no yes MBLEx/NCBTMB URL

If you have any questions about licensing, please contact us.

Please be sure to also check out our pages on

Massage Therapy Licensing Hours by State