Massage Therapist in California

How to Become a Massage Therapist in California

Massage therapy involves the use of touch to reduce tension in muscles and soft tissue. Massage therapy is an alternative health career with a primary emphasis on health and wellness. It is a great career choice for those who may one day wish to start their own business.

Education and Training

    Arizona College of Nursing

    • Ontario

    Carrington College
    9 month program certificate program that preps students for entry level jobs as a licensed massage therapist.

    • Citrus Heights, Pleasant Hill, Sacramento, San Jose, San Leandro, Stockton

    Concorde Career College

    • Garden Grove, North Hollywood, San Bernardino, San Diego

    Institute of Technology
    10 month hybrid program that preps students to take the Massage Licensing Exam.

    • Clovis, Modesto, Redding

    Milan Institute
    34 week program accredited by the California Massage Therapy Council

    • Bakersfield, Fresno, Merced, Palm Desert, Visalia, Fairfield, La Quinta

    National Holistic Institute
    A college dedicated to advanced massage therapy with day, night and weekend classes. No high school diploma needed. Accredited by ACCET.

    • Emeryville, Santa Rosa, Sacramento, San Jose, Studio City, Santa Ana, Ontario, Modesto, Redding, Clovis

    School of Holistic Touch, Inc
    Offers affordable massage education, with a customizable schedule (morning, evening, and weekend options available). 500 hour MT programs.

    • Ontario

    Southern California Health Institute
    SOCHI offers a fast track, 9 month MT program in hybrid format.

    • Reseda

How Long Does it Take?

Most massage therapy training programs include about 500 hours of classroom study and are offered at community colleges, as well as private vocational schools.

You may elect to attend these programs on either a full or part time basis.

What Do You Study?

Classroom study includes anatomy and physiology, study of musculoskeletal structures, organ systems, organs, and tissues. Students will also study kinesiology (body movement) and kinesthetics (body mechanics), healthcare ethics, and office procedures.


Most programs will also offer hands-on training that provides students with experience using various massage modalities.  Most training programs focus on one or two treatment methods and offer job placement assistant.

State Accreditation

In most cases, massage therapy training programs are accredited by a State board, as well as an independent accrediting agency.  The Commission on Massage Therapy Accreditation (COMTA) is a non-profit independent accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

As per the Web site of the agency, “The mission of COMTA is to advance the quality of education in the field of massage therapy through an accreditation process that recognizes the evolving professional standards of practice.”

As per COMPTA, 38 states (including California) now regulate the training of massage therapists.

Visit the California Council of Massage Therapists (CAMTC) for details regarding specific educational requirements for massage therapists in California and a list of accredited schools.

As per the CAMTC, “massage therapy schools must either be nationally accredited, state approved by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE), or a California community college.”

Student Requirements

A high school diploma or general equivalency diploma is typically a requirement for admission to all programs.

Licensing Requirements in California

Visit the Overview of Pathways to Certification of Massage Therapists on the CAMTC Web site for full details regarding the different ways in which you may become a massage therapist.

In California, prospective massage therapists must obtain licensure after graduating from an accredited training program and before beginning to work as a massage therapist.

There are two agencies that provide licensure:

1) National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage (NCMTMB)

2) Federation of State Boards of Massage Therapy (FSBMT).

In both cases, you’ll need to apply to take their exam, pay their fee (costing between $195 – $225), and pass the exam before gaining licensure.


Median earnings of Massage Therapists in select California cities are:

Area Name Hourly mean wage Annual mean wage(2)
Fresno $33.15 $68,950.00
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim $30.92 $64,320.00
Modesto $29.51 $61,380.00
Napa $24.25 $50,440.00
North Coast $33.58 $69,850.00
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario $28.15 $58,550.00
Sacramento–Roseville–Arden-Arcade $30.25 $62,920.00
Salinas $25.05 $52,100.00
San Diego-Carlsbad $27.26 $56,700.00
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward $37.60 $78,210.00
San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara $35.86 $74,600.00
San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Arroyo Grande $29.60 $61,570.00
Santa Maria-Santa Barbara $24.94 $51,870.00
Santa Rosa $31.96 $66,490.00
Stockton-Lodi $27.47 $57,130.00
Vallejo-Fairfield $26.87 $55,890.00
Visalia-Porterville $25.56 $53,160.00

Occupation: Occupation:Massage Therapists(SOC Code319011)

Job Description

Treatment Methods

While most massage therapists focus on one or two treatment modalities, there are over 80 treatment methods that make the practice of massage therapy. The most widely known are Swedish massage, deep tissue massage, sports massage, and reflexology.

Therapy Sessions

A massage therapy session may be as short as 15 minutes or last up to 2 hours depending on the extent of injury and procedure used. For example, a massage therapist would utilize different techniques for a patient with a sports injury than with a patient suffering from migraine headaches.

In many cases, treatment involves massaging oils, lotions and creams into the affected tissue or muscles. Massage therapists may work in a variety of setting including health spas, chiropractic offices, massage clinics, as well as private practice.

Massage therapists who wish to set-up their own office will need to purchase such supplies as a massage table, pillows, oils, lotions, linens, towels, and loose-fitting clothing.

Client Interaction

For new patients, the massage therapist will record medical history and reason for seeking massage treatment. This initial consultation will enable the massage therapist to discuss client expectations with regard to outcomes and review those techniques that may prove most effective in light of their presenting condition.

Because massage therapists focus on only one or two areas, they may refer clients to colleagues who offer the type of treatment recommended.

Massage therapists should have good relationship-building skills to develop client rapport and a consistent following, which is especially important for those who wish to start and grow their own massage therapy practice.

Career Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the growth rate of massage therapists is anticipated to be 19 percent which represents a faster than average rate than for most other occupations.  This growth rate may be due to the fact that more people believe that massage therapy helps improve overall health.

Demand also arises from the growing number of new health spas that have opened in recent years, along with the quick rise in the number of massage therapy franchises that typically offer services at lower cost than most spas and massage clinics.

The field is also gaining greater respect due to the many states that have now implemented more stringent regulatory requirements for the practice of massage therapy.

Residents of nursing homes and assisted living faculties are also finding that massage therapy increases their energy level and reduces unpleasant side effects of various chronic conditions, such as arthritis. The Baby Boomer demographic, who are leading active lives well into their 60s, will also find massage therapy useful to relive sore muscles and tissues.