Emily Bilodeau, LMT (207) 779-6671


Do You go to College for Massage Therapy?

The quick answer is no, but there is significant study required to become a massage therapist. The State of Maine licenses and regulates massage therapy. The primary qualification is to complete a course of study at a state-approved massage therapy education program with a minimum of 500 hours of study. These training programs culminate in career certificates, and 500 hours will take a student 6-24 months to complete, depending on the structure of a program. It's fairly typical for massage therapy schools to offer part-time programs to accommodate the students' family and work schedules. I attended a 600 hour program at Spa Tech in Westbrook: I studied part-time in the evenings for 13 months while I was still teaching high school English,

Because massage therapy career training programs are not typical college courses, students are often taken aback by the academic rigor of the better massage schools, especially the demands of anatomy and physiology courses. While the career training is much more hands on than a traditional college education, the rigor of the anatomy and physiology classes at the better massage schools rivals that of traditional college classes.

photo of diploma wall
So there's a University of Maine at Farmington diploma in my office, but that's not directly related to my massage credentials. Although massage therapy is regulated by the State of Maine, it's a career school program, not a 4-year degree. My time at UMF was in preparation for my teaching career, which I gave up when I became an LMT. I wouldn't say that my time at UMF was completely irrelevant to what I do now. A 500-hour program of study, or even a 600-hour course like the one I followed, is comprehensive enough to ensure basic clinical proficiency, but doesn't offer much specialty focus or develop business skills. It's the curricular and lesson planning, classroom management, and academic records keeping that really gave me the strong foundation upon which to run y private practice. There's a lot of skill set overlap between business and teaching.

The other certificates you see on display are some of the more rigorous courses of continuing education I've completed. Maine does not require CEU's for continuing licensure, but responsible massage therapists will take coursework to broaden and deepen their skill set, expand their professional networks and keep up with scientific research. I've focused my continuing education on decompressive techniques like craniosacral therapy and the Kinesio Tape method because the science behind them is strong and because they offer powerful intervention that is also gentle.

So no, you don't go to college to become a massage therapist, but I found my seemingly unrelated degree to be critical to my success in this business. The skill set you need to assess students' needs, plan instruction and keep confidential records overlaps a lot of the skills necessary to run private practice. I don't know that my degree has made me a better clinician, but I am sure that it's made me a successful business person.
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