How to become a massage therapist – massage qualifications and tips

A massage therapist with a client

Wondering how to become a massage therapist? Here’s how to start your new career, from the massage therapy courses you can take to the different types of massage therapy to master.

What does a massage therapist do?

Massage therapists manipulate the muscles and soft tissues of the body to help alleviate tension, aches and pains. If you decide this is the career path for you, clients may come to you for a number of reasons.

Some may just need help to relax. Others could need rehabilitation following a sports injury, or help to manage a long-term health condition. Feeling that you’re helping people in your profession is one of the great benefits of starting a massage therapy business.

Read on for more reasons to become a qualified massage therapist.

Top reasons to become a massage therapist

1. Flexible work

If you’re setting up as self-employed, you get to set your hours of business and fit work around your other commitments – whether that’s family, another job, or studying.

2. Working from home

You’ll also be in charge of where you work. If you’re not working as an employee of a clinic or a gym, be sure to think about what sort of space will appeal to your customers. It’ll need to be welcoming, clean, warm, quiet and clutter-free.

3. Helping people

The benefits of massage therapy can be far reaching. Just one treatment can help to relieve muscle tension and pain. More regular treatments over a longer period may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression as well as other mental health conditions.

4. Physical activity

Massage therapy can be a great career choice for those who like to keep active. It’s worth thinking about whether you’re happy to work in what can be a physically challenging job – especially if you choose to offer sports massage or deep tissue massage.

5. Meeting different people

Working with the public can have its pitfalls, but it can also be a great way to meet a wide range of people you may not otherwise have met. You might even find people working in other complementary therapies to skill swap with.

Skills and qualities of a massage therapist

You’ll need to be a good listener to make sure you’re meeting your client’s needs and treating them for what they came to see you about. It’s also important for all types of complementary therapists (not just massage therapists) to be able to set boundaries.

This can be key to keeping your appointments running on time, as some clients may want to stay and chat like you’re close friends. Striking the perfect balance between warm yet professional is important.

When starting out as a self-employed massage therapist, you have to be organised with your business admin, including:

Different types of massage therapy

There’s a wide range of possible specialisms for massage therapists, and many offer more than one. It may be best to start with general massage therapist qualifications (more on these below) before branching out into different areas as you gain experience.

Massage specialisms include:

  • aromatherapy massage
  • baby massage
  • deep tissue massage
  • hot stone massage
  • Indian head massage
  • pregnancy and post-natal massage
  • sports massage
  • Swedish
  • shiatsu
  • Thai massage
  • reflexology massage

Massage qualifications in the UK

You don’t need a degree to become a massage therapist – in fact, there are no set massage therapist training requirements.

But if you’re just establishing yourself, and you need to build your client base, having a qualification they can trust will give them confidence that they’re in safe hands.

If you train to be a massage therapist and have the right qualifications, it may even be the deciding factor when they’re choosing who to book with.

Massage therapy courses

To become a massage therapist you’ll usually need to complete a qualification lasting around six months, depending on how frequently you attend classes. Types of massage therapy certification include the ITEC (Level 3 RQF) Diploma in a range of different massage styles, which you can see above.

You could then build on your training as you gain more experience, through Continuing Professional Development (CPD) and more advanced training courses, like the BTEC level 6 Professional Diploma in Advanced Clinical and Sports Massage. This is claimed to be a degree-level program.

You could also aim for a degree at a UK university. Cardiff Metropolitan University, for example, offers a BSc (Hons) degree in Sport Conditioning, Rehabilitation and Massage.

Massage therapist apprenticeships also become available sometimes. If this is a route you’d like to consider, you can register your details and find an apprenticeship via the government website.

You can also study massage therapy online. However, as it’s such a physical role, consider how potential clients could view a qualification that’s not gained with a qualified trainer in person.

UK massage therapy accreditation bodies

Massage therapists can be accredited by professional bodies, such as the:

While it’s not essential, registering as an accredited therapist gives your clients added reassurance that they’re in safe hands.

These bodies have a code of conduct that helps set the standard for a practising masseuse. You’ll get a profile to list your credentials and also have access to resources to help you continue your education.

Massage therapist insurance

While it’s not a legal requirement, it’s important that you have massage therapist insurance to protect you and your clients should anything go wrong.

Keep in mind that if you work in a premises like a spa or gym, you might be required to have insurance, and professional bodies will likely require that you have professional indemnity insurance too.

Professional indemnity insurance protects you if you make a mistake in your work or give bad advice.

With Simply Business, you can include professional indemnity insurance as part of a tailored policy, adding other covers like business equipment insurance and personal accident insurance, if you need them.

Additional considerations when setting up a massage therapy business

As well as accreditations, you may also want to consider the following when setting up your business, such as:

What qualifications do I need to be a massage therapist?

As mentioned above, there are several routes into massage therapy. One way to get into this career is to do a college course:

  • Level 3 Diploma in Massage
  • Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage Therapy
  • Level 3 Diploma in Complementary Therapies

Browse the internet for any colleges offering these qualifications in your local area, or check out City & Guilds.

Do you need a licence to be a massage therapist?

Yes, depending on where you live. Some local authorities require you to have a premises licence if you’re offering massage treatments. They’ll inspect your premises to check you’re meeting health and safety requirements and there’s good hygiene practices. has a postcode finder to help you apply for a massage licence.

Beyond this, there aren’t currently any UK regulations for massage therapists to have a licence. The best way to demonstrate your credentials is to join one of the professional bodies we mentioned earlier.

Considering other careers?

If you’re still undecided about becoming a massage therapist, you might want to look into these jobs within the health and wellbeing sector:

Useful small business guides

Do you have any questions or tips about becoming a massage therapist that we haven’t covered above? Let us know in the comments below.

Looking for self-employed insurance?

With Simply Business you can build a single self employed insurance policy combining the covers that are relevant to you. Whether it’s public liability insurance, professional indemnity or whatever else you need, we’ll run you a quick quote online, and let you decide if we’re a good fit.

Photograph 1: didesign/

Lauren Hellicar

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