How to Become a Massage Therapist in California
Maybe How NOT to Become a Massage Therapist in California would be a more fitting title? Don’t get me wrong. You want to know how and I’m very qualified to answer this question. I say that, because I went through the whole process from start to finish and was eventually denied certification. In other words, I am still not certified even after doing everything correctly from the beginning – all the way to submitting a complete application to the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC). I am all too familiar with the painful pitfalls that a person can encounter on the path of trying to become a massage therapist in California.
Therefore, this article is about giving you the information I wish I would have known, before I had begun my journey to become a certified massage therapist in California. I want to help you avoid wasting a significant amount of time, money, & energy. In addition, I want to spare you the horrible experience of sacrificing opportunities & valuable time spent with your loved ones, only to be left having to start all over from square one. My goal is to guide you in navigating the process so that you’ll be successful in getting certified as a massage therapist in California. So let’s start with the basics.
What are the requirements to become a certified massage therapist in the state of California?
Here are the official requirements (as set by the CAMTC) to become a certified massage therapist in California. You must:
- Be at least 18 years of age.
- Pay the $200 non-refundable fee.
- Live Scan – Submit fingerprints & pass a criminal background check at an authorized agency using the required CAMTC form.
- Attend a CAMTC approved school where you complete at least 500 hours.
- Not have violated the California Massage Therapy Act or any of the CAMTC policies or regulations.
- Provide a clear photocopy of a government issued ID.
- Include a recent passport photo.
View the detailed list of requirements on the CAMTC website here.
Sounds simple enough right??? Wrong. While most of the requirements listed above are pretty self-explanatory; there is one item which is riddled with complexity – attending a CAMTC approved school. There are many pitfalls to be aware of in this process which I’ll explain in more detail below.
Choosing the “Right” CAMTC Approved Massage Therapy School
With so many massage schools in California you may be wondering how to find the ‘best’ one. Or you may have already identified a massage school that you wish to attend. But beware, this is the decision that can make or break everything for you; as it did (break everything) for me and countless others. The CAMTC list of unapproved schools or related categories is longer than the list of currently approved schools – if that tells you anything.
The massage school I attended was highly recommended to me by a friend and owner of a very successful small business. The school had an outstanding reputation in the local community. It received honors such as California Small Business of the Year and was awarded as a Center for Family Business Excellence in Education. I graduated from the school’s massage therapy program with 600 hours (only 500 hours are required by the CAMTC). At that point, I submitted my complete application to the CAMTC and waited, and waited, and waited. Come to find out that my school was being investigated by the Council. Subsequently, it became officially unapproved by the CAMTC over 7 months after I had submitted my complete application. I waited well over one year for an official answer to my application (DENIED). Click here for more on my story.
Don’t assume that just because they have a great name and reputation like National Holistic Institute, that they are immune from scrutiny by the CAMTC. Literally anything can happen at any moment.
So how to find the massage school that will help you become a certified massage therapist in California?
You might think about searching on the internet for massage therapist school, massage schools near me, or massage therapist school online. But I can tell you clearly that that is not where you start. You begin (as I did) by going to this Find A School page on the CAMTC website which is a list of the approved schools that they will accept massage education hours from. Find an accredited massage therapy school near you and make sure that they are on this list. Don’t assume that just because they have a great name and reputation like National Holistic Institute, that they are immune from scrutiny by the CAMTC. Literally anything can happen at any moment.
IMPORTANT Things to Consider When Choosing a Massage School
Do Your Research and Get Answers to These Important Questions
- How long has the massage therapy program existed at your desired school?
- How long have they been an approved school by the CAMTC? And when is their certification renewal date? I personally wouldn’t enroll in a massage therapy program at a school that’s certification is coming up for renewal while you’ll be attending classes. For me that’s too risky.
- If your school of choice offers more programs than just massage therapy, how much value is placed on their massage therapy program? A school can drop the massage program and still remain in business if they decide it’s too much of a hassle dealing with the CAMTC.
- What is the success rate of students who have graduated from the massage program in getting massage certification from the CAMTC?
Ask These Important Questions
- Ask if the school is currently being or has ever been investigated by the CAMTC. There is no guarantee that this will be enough however, because the school I attended wasn’t being investigated by the CAMTC at the time I enrolled. Continue asking the school administration this question at least once a month while attending massage therapy classes.
- Is the school currently being investigated or has it ever been investigated by any other accrediting agency such as the AMTA, NCBTMB, ACCET, BPPE, USDE, COMTA, or others? The CAMTC can simply adopt the results of an investigation by one of these other agencies as their own without even doing any formal investigation of their own.
- Is the school being formally reviewed? Massage therapy schools undergo a formal review process every so often. But if they are being investigated by any of the aforementioned organizations, it’s a red flag and you should think twice about your options.
Additional Points to Consider
- As back-up, find another massage therapy school nearby that accepts transferred hours from the school you would like to attend. Just in case a problem arises with your massage school of choice. Transferring your earned hours to another massage school may be your saving grace.
- Financial aid – if you are applying for financial aid, make sure that the school is in good standing with FAFSA.
- Does the massage therapy school allow you to study and earn hours on the weekends? Earning your 500 minimum hours of required massage education is a serious commitment! Having weekends as an option can really help, especially for those working another job.
Most importantly, document or record the answers given by the massage school administration in case you need to hold them accountable. None of these questions really guarantee that you’re choosing a massage therapy school that will be in good standing with the CAMTC at the time your application is being processed. But at least by doing your due diligence – one can only hope.
Now You Know How to Become a Massage Therapist in California!
I truly hope the information I’ve provided you here will help you to successfully become a Certified Massage Therapist (CMT) in California. Do you have other questions that I might be able to answer? Or comments regarding your own personal experience? Please leave them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and I wish you the best of luck. You’ll need it!
This photo was taken the day I received my diploma. I was feeling so proud of my accomplishments and ready to go to work - only to have my dreams shattered.Shattered Dreams After Massage Schools UnapprovedTo date, the California Massage Therapy Council (CAMTC) has...