There are nearly two dozen state-approved massage therapy schools in Alabama, from the Gulf Coast to near the Tennessee border. They range from institutes and academies to community colleges, though some of the smaller schools do not offer for-credit programs.
Depending upon the site, you will be pursuing a certificate, diploma, or associate’s degree. Most programs take less than a year for full-time students. To practice massage therapy in Alabama, you must successfully complete a program at a school recognized by state officials and then pass a licensing exam.
You might also be interested in massage therapy schools in other states.
This regulatory agency approves schools, registers instructors, sets curriculum standards, and licenses practitioners.
The officials require those who apply for licenses to submit school transcripts, verification of having passed the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, and evidence of holding a $1 million personal-liability insurance policy.
There is a $25 license-application fee. The exam consists of 125 questions concerning anatomy, physiology, and kinesiology; pathology; massage and bodywork assessment; and professional massage standards.
The board also regulates continuing-education programs, and holds hearings to consider allegations of misconduct and rule violations by schools or practitioners.
To become a massage therapist in Alabama, a student must successfully complete at least 650 hours of education at a state-recognized school. The requirement includes 100 or more hours of coursework in anatomy and physiology, 35 hours in myology, 15 hours in osteology, and 10 hours each in the circulatory and nervous systems.
Additional classes vary by school, but no fewer than 250 hours must be devoted to basic massage theory and closely related topics. This is to include instruction in touch modalities. There has to be some education in business practices and in therapies that use water. Supervised practice makes up another 50 hours of study.
Individual schools determine the classes for an additional 50 hours. Among the state-approved alternatives are hydrotherapy, business, ethics, and first aid. Some schools exceed the 650-hour mandate.
The state Board of Massage offers advanced credentialing for those who complete 750 hours of study, some of which is available through continuing education. This may give practitioners more opportunities and qualify them for higher-paying positions. There are also post-graduate programs that train therapists for specialties, like working with certain types of animals.
This school in Mobile offers a 750-hour curriculum that it touts as a “solid foundation” in anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. Additional courses include Deep Tissue Massage, Neuromuscular Therapy, Spa Massage, Sports Massage, and Basic Shiatsu. The Swedish Massage class covers the various draping alternatives for a one-hour, full-body treatment. All students perform and receive massages in the classroom, and give massages to 10 members of the public in the school’s clinic.
In addition, the instruction covers marketing and the creation of an operational business plan.
Located in the city of the same name, GSCC has a short-term certificate program in massage therapy. It entails 720 contact hours (29 credit hours) of study.
Among the courses are Anatomy and Physiology, Kinesiology, Business and Marketing Plans, Massage for Special Populations, and Pathology. Some of the classes are available online, either entirely or in a hybrid form that involves a few campus visits each semester. Students also must show up for massage labs, supervised clinics, and lectures.
Massage therapy students at this school have two options: a short-term certificate program and an associate’s degree in salon and spa management.
Courses that make up the 29 credit hours in the certificate program include Therapeutic Massage Lab, Anatomy and Physiology, Musculoskeletal and Kinesiology, Therapeutic Massage Supervised Clinical, Foundations of Therapeutic Massage, Business and Marketing Plans, Therapeutic Massage for Special Populations, and Musculoskeletal and Kinesiology.
Students seeking the associate’s degree must take additional classes concerning spa techniques and practices, cosmetology, hair and facial treatments, bacteriology and sanitation, English composition, career and personal development, and other subjects.
Massage therapy students at his small school in Rainsville take the following courses: Introduction to Therapeutic Massage, Therapeutic Massage Lab, Anatomy and Physiology, Musculoskeletal and Kinesiology, Therapeutic Massage Supervised Clinic, Business and Marketing Plans, Therapeutic Massage for Special Populations, and Pathology.
Those wishing to earn an associate in applied science degree in salon and spa management, a 69- to 72-credit-hour program, also study English; humanities and fine arts; history, social, and behavioral sciences; and natural sciences and mathematics. In addition, there are three technical core courses and 38 credit hours of program option classes.
The massage therapy program here, on the school’s campus in Opelika, entails three semesters (fall through summer) of evening classes (Monday through Thursday). The curriculum features classroom lectures, hands-on lab work, clinical sessions, and outreach opportunities.
In their first course, Introduction to Therapeutic Massage, students receive instruction in Swedish massage, hot and cold therapies, stretching, and other techniques. They go on to study Anatomy and Physiology, Musculoskeletal and Kinesiology, Business and Marketing Plans, Therapeutic Massage for Special Populations, and Pathology.
The projected job growth rate in this field from 2016-2026 in Alabama is 16.77 percent – significantly less than the national average of 26 percent, but still much better than most other professions.
The number of positions for massage therapists in the state is expected to increase from 660 to 770 during the decade. The city of Huntsville offers the most opportunities, but employers in Mobile and Montgomery offer higher wages.
The median pay statewide is more than $34,000 annually, or nearly $17 per hour. The top 10 percent of earners make in excess of $49,000 a year, or almost $24 an hour; while the bottom 10 percent take home about $18,000 annually, or close to $9 per hour. Nationwide, yearly salaries range from a bit more than $20,000 to over $77,000.
Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CareerOneStop