Online massage therapy certification programs prepare students to complete a state or national certification exam and start a career as a massage therapist. Online programs are limited, with few fully online options available due to the hands-on training required for these skills.
The best online massage therapy certification programs are comprehensive in providing a range of skill and business management training as well as first aid. These programs tend to be affordable but also easy to complete in an online or hybrid format within a few months to years.
Best Online Massage Therapy Certification Programs of 2021
- Best Overall: U.S. Career Institute
- Best on a Budget: Allied Health Career Institute
- Best Accredited Program: SOCHi
- Best Self-Paced Option: Northwest Academy
- Best Live Program: Whatcom Community College
- Best for Specializations: The Professional Massage Academy
- Best for Sports Therapy: AMTA Sports Massage Certificate Program
Best Overall : U.S. Career Institute
The U.S. Career Institute Massage Therapy School offers a fully 100% online study program, a rarity in the industry. It's competitively priced and enables students to sit for the MBLEx or NCBTMB certification exam.
Exam eligibility for both MBLEx and NCBTMB
Financial aid available
Hands-on learning costs extra
Less teacher support and guidance
The U.S. Career Institute is one of the few fully online massage therapy certification programs. Students can upgrade to the academic and hands-on training program but will then need to complete 200 hours of training in Fort Collins, Colorado. Hands-on training is not necessary in order to qualify for the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) or the National Certification Board in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB), though.
This program offers courses in the history of bodywork, various bodywork approaches, ethics in a therapeutic setting, and anatomical terms. After these initial programs, students study organ systems and techniques, including Swedish massage, movement and support, Chinese medicine theory, and hydrotherapy techniques.
The U.S.Career Institute program is set up like a degree, with one course following into the next and requiring completion of each component to officially finish the program, with some variety in selections. Course materials include DVD instructional guides, first aid tools, and flashcards. This self-paced program costs $4,898 and takes about 625 hours to complete.
Best on a Budget : Allied Health Career Institute
While our top choice costs less, the Allied Health Career Institute program is self-paced and offers financial aid, payment plans, and support options that may be beneficial for those on a budget.
Self-paced learning for ample flexibility
Competitive price for a quality program
Flexible payment options for budget-friendliness
Not fully online
Lack of interactive online format
The Massage Therapy Certificate Program from Allied Health Career Institute is a 700-credit hour program offering self-paced learning. It prepares students for health and wellness careers, providing a good blend of online and in-classroom education in Arizona.
At a cost of $6,999, the Allied Health Career Institute program is affordable, especially since it prepares students to sit for the MBLEx certification program. It's also beneficial to those on a budget because of flexible payment plans and financial aid potential, plus students can complete their education over time.
Allied Health Career Institute’s comprehensive course includes topics such as kinesiology, anatomy, pathology, and musculoskeletal applications. Students receive practical skill training in trigger point therapy, Western massage, reflexology, and myofascial massage. There is also some business-focused content provided to help students develop good relationships with clients and build their practice.
Although the program is not comprehensive in covering all types of massage. it does offer a hands-on learning style that can help perfect the skills and techniques that are covered.
Best Accredited Program : SOCHi
The Southern California Health Institute (SOCHi) offers a massage therapy certificate program accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education & Training (ACCET). The program also prepares students to complete the California Massage Therapy Council (CaMTC) exam.
Accredited programs recognized for in-depth instruction
Interactive online format for engaging material
Cost may be prohibitive
Not fully online
SOCHi's online massage therapy school features several videoconferencing and interactive tech platforms for live lectures and pre-recorded material. Students also gain hands-on experience by working with the direct supervision of a licensed massage therapist instructor locally.
Most massage modalities are covered in this program to enable a student to sit for ACCET or CAMTC certification. Over the course of nine months, students learn medical massage, kinesiology, physiology, spa treatment modalities, and lymph drainage. They also learn about proper hygiene, professional ethics, and business principles in massage therapy. In addition, the program enables students to earn first aid certification.
The total cost of the SOCHi program is $16,165, which is higher than most, but students gain excellent massage therapy insights and work with a licensed, experienced massage therapist instructor through an interactive online class. This cost includes equipment, supplies, books, and all registration fees. While not fully online, this may be the best combination of both learning methods when in-depth education is the goal. Financing opportunities are also available to some students.
Best Self-Paced Option : Northwest Academy
This hybrid massage therapist program allows for self-paced learning with a range of options including live and pre-recorded lectures letting students complete their initial training over time. Upon completion, students meet to gain hands-on skill training in classes at one of several campuses.
Self-paced initial learning for flexible schedules
Several campus locations for hands-on training
Research-based curriculum with evidence-based curriculum
Career placement assistance
In-person requirements may limit access
Higher cost than some other programs
Northwest Academy provides a self-paced learning program for initial education. Students work to complete this hybrid program in two components. Online, they work through pre-recorded lectures and some live sessions while completing most coursework online at their own pace. Then, upon completion, students choose one of several campuses to complete hands-on learning and skill training.
In addition, this massage therapist program also provides small class sizes and a research-based curriculum. Evidence-based massage techniques are taught as well as topics such as kinesiology, pathology, gross anatomy labs, and massage theory. Students also get business and practice management, CPR and first aid certification prep, and a student clinic to gain skills in time management, administration, and problem-solving. Students can also complete additional, more specialized programs including a reflexology certificate program and instructor certification. The program costs $10,661 and requires 661 credit hours.
Additionally, Northwest Academy encourages long-term success and learning through career placement and assistance services. This includes a resume review, interview prep, and career opportunity communications.
Best Live Program : Whatcom Community College
Whatcom Community College offers a full-time, 20-hour-per week, live certificate program for massage therapy. This program enables students to sit for national and Washington state licensing exams.
Students can sit for WA state exam and some national certifications
Completed over the course of three quarters
Requires commitment of 20 hours per week
Not as comprehensive as other programs
May require previous college experience
The massage therapist program at Whatcom Community College in Washington enables students with previous college experience to enroll in a 20-hour a week live-session educational program. Students wishing to obtain an associate degree will need to meet with a counselor to ensure they meet prerequisite educational requirements.
This hybrid program requires students to meet at specific times each week to engage in live training. The massage program starts each fall and runs for three quarters, allowing students to complete their education in under a year.
Through the Whatcom Community College program, students learn massage modalities and therapies along with anatomy, kinesiology, and pathology. They also learn safety, ethical, and legal applications to massage therapy as well as client communication skills. The program meets all guidelines set by the Washington State Board of Massage. At a cost of $9,540, it’s ideal for those who wish to switch career paths into massage therapy with some completed college credits.
Best for Specializations : The Professional Massage Academy
The Professional Massage Academy is a solid option for students seeking advanced education in areas of sports massage, specialized massage, and advanced techniques.
Ample hands-on training
Comprehensive training for specializations
Based in Minnesota, with online components
Some may need more training for state exams
The Professional Massage Academy offers an online massage therapy program with flexible online classes and some in-person learning. Those in Minnesota can sit for their state licensing exam after course completion. Some taking the program out-of-state may need more hands-on training locally to meet their state requirements.
It's possible to take specialized massage therapy programs for one or two areas of focus in other courses and programs. Students have access to some specialization options included the program such as sports massage, advanced massage techniques, and specialized massage areas such as reflexology, medical massage, and deep tissue massage. This is taught through demonstration and practical application. Students also learn core topics such as kinesiology, medical terminology, and anatomy.
The Professional Massage Academy also offers personalization and flexibility by providing three learning plans with 15, 29, or 40 hours per week of study, allowing students to complete their education in as little as 15 weeks. At a cost of $7,500 and requiring 600 hours of completion, this program is a moderate choice across the board. There is also a $150 fee for online access to the program.
Best for Sports Therapy : AMTA Sports Massage Certificate Program
- Cost: $909 ($674 for AMTA members)
- Requirements: Graduate from a 500-hour program; proof of licensure
- Duration: 30 hours
The Sports Massage Speciality Certificate Program from American Massage Therapy Association (AMTA) provides students with foundational massage therapy education to obtain specialized skills in sports massage.
Low cost for AMTA members
Hybrid program allowing for some study at home
Short credit hour requirement
May take NCBTMB exam
Just focuses on sports massage
Not fully online
AMTA offers a short, 30-credit hour sports massage specialization curriculum enabling students to sit for the NCBTMB examination. The certificate program focuses just on sports massage, meaning students may need to obtain the rest of their massage therapy from another provider or program.
This program includes online courses and a hands-on workshop enabling students to gain experience from fully licensed and experienced massage therapist instructors. This is also a self-paced course; students can take courses as they would like to and in any order and pay for the program per course taken, offering some flexibility in learning paths.
Courses include sports massage ethics and building trust, the science of athletics, injury and recovery, and athlete care and conditions. The hands-on workshop teaches sports massage techniques through practical applications.
The cost for the program is $674 for members of NCBTMB or $909 for non-members. To enter this program, students must meet prerequisites including current licensure in a basic massage program and completion of at least 500 credit hours at an entry-level massage therapy school.
U.S. Career Institute offers the most straightforward online massage therapy program for students. This fully online program enables students to sit for certification exams after completion of a packed curriculum of study. It's also competitively priced compared to other programs, making it an affordable option that doesn't take a lot of time to complete.
Compare the Best Online Massage Therapy Certification Programs
|U.S. Career Institute
|On-demand videos||$4,989||625 hours||No|
|Allied Health Career Institute
Best on a Budget
|On-demand videos and in-class training||$6,999||150 hours||No|
Best Accredited Program
|Videoconferencing with live lectures and on-demand videos||$16,165||9 months||Yes|
Best Self-Paced Option
|Live and self-paced lectures||$10,500||660 hours||Yes|
|Whatcom Community College
Best Live Program
|Live online sessions and hands-on training||$9,540||9 months||Yes|
|The Professional Massage Academy
Best for Specializations
|On-demand lectures with in-person training||$7,500||600 hours||Yes|
|AMTA Sports Massage Certificate Program
Best for Sports Therapy
|On-demand video classes with hands-on training||$674 for members, $900 for non-members||30 hours||No|
How to Choose the Best Online Massage Therapy Certification Programs
To select the best online massage therapy certification program, consider location, the type of education desired, and the format of the program. Some key factors to think about include:
- Learning method: Is the program fully online? That's difficult to find, but many programs offer hybrid options enabling students to learn at least some at home.
- Type of content: What does the program teach? Some programs provide a comprehensive overview of massage therapy including technique application along with business skills, communication skills, and first aid mastery.
- Certification access and prep: Is certification a part of the program? Most often, programs teach material necessary to sit for and pass a state or national certification program, though not all do.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Are the Requirements for an Online Massage Therapy Certification Program?
Some require students to come into the program with some college education already completed while others do not. Many programs are available to those 18 years of age or older with a high school diploma or the equivalent. Requirements for certification vary based on the state but may include completing a certain number of course hours of study (500 is a common level).
Is It Worth Getting an Online Massage Therapy Certification?
It may be worth completing an online massage therapy certification if the program provides in-depth training, flexible learning methods, and teaches a variety of massage techniques. A good program is also valuable if it prepares you to take your certification exam.
A massage therapy certification can also open you up to career opportunities, either with a spa or massage center or by starting your own practice. A licensed massage therapist in the U.S. can earn an average of $43,620 per year.
What Is the Typical Path to an Online Massage Therapy Certification?
Students typically complete a massage therapy program teaching them the material needed to take a certification exam. This often includes in-person, hands-on training supervised by a licensed massage therapist instructor. These programs most often include topics such as physiology and kinesiology, as well as medical terminology, massage technique practical skills, and business-related courses. These programs may follow a specific course of study or be self-paced, allowing students to take courses as they desire.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Massage Therapy Certification?
The length of the massage therapy course of study ranges widely based on the program. Some programs wrap up in as little as 15 weeks. Most, however, take at least a year to complete, while others take much longer. Those seeking an associate degree program can spend 18 to 36 months studying to earn their degree.
To determine the best online massage therapy courses, we looked at a variety of online and hybrid educational programs. We ranked them based on the type of content provided, access for online students, the depth of quality of the content, costs, and duration.