Maybe you’ve recently finished school, and you’re wondering what exactly massage CEUs are and how they work. Or, maybe you’re a long-time professional who’s curious about whether you’re devoting far too many hours per year traveling across the country, sitting through long, irrelevant lectures, and spending massive amounts of money on continuing education courses when there might be an easier, cheaper, and faster way to achieve the same results.
Regardless of where you are in the professional spectrum, this guide is for you. Over the course of this massage CEU guide, we’ll cover:
- What CEUs are, and why they’re important
- CEU certification organizations for therapists
- How to fit CEUs into your busy schedule as a practicing therapist
- Traditional CEU options
- Online massage CEU courses
- What to do moving forward
Many massage therapists jump into the profession with a simple mission: they want to help people. Maybe a personal experience sparked their interest. Perhaps an injury or accident led to prolonged pain, which was eventually alleviated by massage. Or maybe they were trying to navigate a stressful job, and the toll that chronic stress takes on the body–and massage therapy was the answer. After a few sessions, they’d found their calling: they realized they wanted to become a licensed therapist, and share the gift of healing and relaxation with others.
So, these soon-to-be therapists jump into a course of massage education, with some programs lasting up to two years in total. And after many months of training, they’re finally ready to begin their practice.
This begs an important question, though: should education for health care practitioners really stop with graduation? Isn’t the practice of medicine and other therapeutic techniques actually a lifelong learning process? One which doesn’t arbitrarily end with a student’s graduation from a particular program, but rather extends and continues throughout the entire length of a practitioner’s life and career?
This is where CEUs, or Continuing Education Units, come in. Many practitioners express that they’re sad to leave school: they don’t want to stop learning, expanding their horizons, and improving their clinical abilities and skill set when it comes to treating clients. Lucky for them, the massage profession in the United States actually mandates precisely the opposite. In fact, therapists are required to continue their education beyond the confines of a therapy program.
By the end of this guide, you’ll be able to consider yourself a “massage CEU expert.”
Ready? Let’s dig in.
What are CEUs?
Plenty of professional therapists will gladly acknowledge the importance of continuing education. It’s not uncommon for a newly licensed therapist to talk about the challenges associated with finishing their extensive program in such a short period of time. It’s a ton of information packed into a very narrow window: this is something that both massage therapists and schools alike acknowledge.
So, naturally, once the semester (or year, or summer, or second year) of school comes to a close, many therapists are left wondering: what next? Where do we go from here? Could we really have mastered everything there is to know about the business and practice of running a successful practice?
Simply put, the answer is no. Even in the states which require the largest number of hours of study in order to become a licensed professional massage therapist, it’s impossible for a student who comes into a program with no background in the medical profession or a clinical practice to graduate from a massage therapy program with an inexhaustible, complete knowledge of how to care for the human musculoskeletal system.
The reality, too, is that it’s not just students who acknowledge and experience the need for continuing education. States across the country, massage schools, and the national body responsible for licensing massage therapists all recognize the importance of continuing education.
So, what are massage CEUs (Continuing Education Units), and how do they work?
Continuing education units are present across a wide variety of occupations that require professional licensure. Other professions requiring the maintenance of CEUs in order to keep up with professional certification include teachers, architects, designers, engineers, administrators, social workers, and (of course) a variety of health care workers, including nurses, doctors, psychologists and other mental health professionals, dentists, acupuncturists, chiropractors, and more.
A quick look at this list reveals one thing that all of these professions have in common. Every occupation on this list involves providing an incredibly important service to someone. But not just any service: a service that will have a significant and dramatic impact on someone’s life, in a constantly changing world. It’s the reality of the mutable nature of each of these professions, combined with the level of importance that they play in people’s lives, that makes CEUs (continuing education units) necessary.
It’s easy to see how massage therapy fits into this picture. Clients come to practitioners for a variety of personal issues and chronic illnesses. Maybe a client is experiencing chronic, ongoing pain that conventional medicine hasn’t had any luck in attempting to alleviate. Or, perhaps they’re suffering from an unrelenting level of occupational and personal stress that’s materialized in the form of serious muscular tension and other physical issues.
Regardless of why a client approaches a practitioner, it’s important that they be “ready for anything,” so to speak. This means not only keeping up with the latest advances in massage therapy itself, but also doing their best to keep pace with other advances and progress in medical technology, and in the medical profession in general. This is not only good for clients: it’s also good for the practitioner, and for their bottom line. When clients come to see a practitioner who presents themselves as a well-informed, savvy, up to date professional, those clients are more likely to continue seeing that therapist.
We have now seen what CEUs are in a broader context, and why continuing education units are important for practitioners. This begs the question, though: where and how exactly do massage therapists receive CEUs?
Massage CEUs are regulated by specific organizations around the world. These licensing organizations determine what does (and does not) clear the bar when it comes to a course for continuing one’s education. So, who regulates the creation, administration, and qualification of CEUs in the United States? How does the whole process work? How can you be sure that a course will actually count towards your annual CEU requirements? Read on for the answers to these questions.
CEU Certification Organizations for Massage Therapists
While we’ve acknowledged that Continuing Education Units are important for massage therapists, we’re still missing an important part of the overall picture. If a professional were to take just “some course” offered online or in-person, would it actually count towards their annual requirements? And what exactly are those requirements? The answer is simple. In the United States, in order to ensure that the massage CEU course you take will actually count towards your annual requirement of CEUs, you’ll want to make sure that your course is approved by the National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB). The NCBTMB offers a great F.A.Q. about their continuing education providers. While it’s incredibly comprehensive, it’s also a bit lengthy: so, we’ll summarize all of the important bits for you here (as they relate to your needs as a professional). Meanwhile, if you’d like to learn more about the NCBTMB, its history, and why it’s important for practitioners in the United States, Panda Massage CEU™ has compiled a comprehensive blog post on the subject here (Guide to the NCBTMB).
First, it’s important to note that CEU requirements vary from state to state. Some states require quite a large number of hours per years in order to maintain your certification as a licensed massage therapist. Meanwhile, other states allow their practitioners to accrue a small number of CEUs per year. Some even forgo the requirement altogether, failing to mandate that massage therapists in their state attend annual courses and acquire CEUs in the first place. If you’re wondering how many CEUs your state requires, the American Massage Therapy Association maintains an updated, comprehensive state by state database of CEU requirements here.
Once you’ve taken a look at the AMTA’s state database and determined how many CEU hours you need annually (or biennially, or triennially), you might still be wondering: how do I ensure that whatever course I attend will actually qualify to fulfill those requirements?
That’s where the NCBTMB’s list comes in. The NCBTMB offers a search engine for finding a qualified provider with approved CEU courses near you.
There are a number of downsides regarding the live, in-person trainings catalogued on the NCBTMB website and via its search engine. Sure, it’s great to receive hands on training in-person: after all, that’s how most practitioners were educated through massage school.
But there are all sorts of problems and difficulties associated with this in-person training, too. As a busy massage therapist, how do you make time for all of the travel associated with attending courses and accruing your required annual minimum number of CEUs? How do you balance the importance of continuing education with the demands of your professional life and massage practice?
That’s where online courses come in. Read on to learn more.
How to Fit CEUs into Your Busy Schedule
How busy are massage therapists today? The American Massage Therapy Association estimates that the average massage therapist in the United States spends roughly 18 hours per week on actual client therapy. This might lead you to believe that massage therapists work “part-time hours,” and have easy, relaxing schedules.
For many practitioners though, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is that those 18 (or more) hours of actual therapy represent a small fraction of the total number of hours per week spent in the office. In addition to the need to provide actual services to a variety of clients, therapists also have a whole host of other things on their plates. They have to run an office; recruit and develop leads for new clients; network and coordinate with other medical professionals in their area; manage their bookkeeping; bill insurance providers for clients who opt to utilize a co-pay option; maintain their equipment; keep up with scheduling; purchase supplies; put significant amounts of energy into marketing efforts; maintain a social media presence; and more. So, while Americans spend roughly $30 billion per year on complementary medicine (a significant portion of which includes massage), the average therapist’s share of that income only corresponds to a fraction of the work they have to do each week to maintain an active, healthy, thriving practice.
This creates a serious dilemma for some practitioners, especially those who run a small, private practice. With all of the energy that they have to put into keeping up with their practice, where do they find the time to take the necessary courses and keep up with their annual CEU requirements?
While you’re in school, learning is your sole focus. You’re not worried about income, client ratios, marketing, your social media presence, and so on. Your only concern is educating yourself, and becoming the best massage therapist you can be.
That’s great while you’re in school. But what about the day to day demands of the profession? How do you balance those demands with your CEU requirements?
Traditional CEU Options
Up until recently, there was only one option for obtaining CEUs on an annual basis for professionals across a wide range of occupations: you attended courses in-person.
To be fair, the up close and personal experience of an in-person course has its share of advantages. There’s nothing like hands on experience and the ability to interface with other students from around the country. It’s a prime opportunity to ask questions, hear from other professionals, and keep up with trends and advances in your field.
But let’s be honest: that ideal isn’t exactly an accurate portrayal of the reality of attending an in-person CEU course.
First, as a massage therapist, you have to block off your schedule for days at a time: sometimes, for an entire week. That’s thousands of dollars of lost income in the short term. And, if you have clients who are in need of weekly treatments for chronic conditions, they may switch to another therapist once they learn that you’ll periodically be out of town and unavailable for appointments. That makes for long term lost income.
Next, you have to arrange and pay for travel. The costs associated with this kind of travel aren’t just limited to the flights, hotel, and meals eaten at restaurants. All of those obviously add up, and they end up accounting for a huge amount of expenses at the end of the year. But on top of these obvious expenses, you have to keep in mind the massive amount of time that you have to dedicate to arranging and carrying out the travel itself. How many hours did you spend booking that trip across the country to attend a workshop? How long did it take to compare flight and hotel prices, or the cost of car rentals? And then, on top of that, how many hours are you spending in airports and on flights? All of those hours could have been spent billing clients for massage services. When you calculate your hourly rate of missed billable hours and combine it with the cost of travel, going out of town to obtain CEUs can become outrageously expensive.
What if there were a better way?
Massage Therapy CEU Courses Online
Enter the online massage CEU course.
In 2017, there’s no need to spend literally thousands upon thousands of dollars in missed work and travel expenses to keep up with your annual CEU requirements.
There’s a better, simpler, more efficient way of continuing your massage education that’s just as effective: online courses.
While there are plenty of positive things to say about attending a CEU course in-person, the reality is that the days of in-person classes for continuing education are long gone. Nowadays, with the demands being placed on professionals around the country, massage training online is often the best and most cost-effective choice.
Panda Massage CEU offers a wide array of online courses at a tiny fraction of the cost of traditional, in-person classes. With options like kinesiology, hydro-therapy, sports massage, deep tissue, and more, Panda has become the #1 online CEU source for massage therapists.
Massage therapy is an engaging, challenging, and incredibly important profession in the 21st century. As a massage professional, it’s your job to provide your clients with the relief and treatment that they need. And in order to do that, you need to keep up with your annual licensure requirements–which means keeping up with your massage therapy CEUs.
Fortunately, doing just that has never been easier. We invite you to take a look at Panda Massage CEU’s wide array of affordable, online courses. Through quality continuing education, you can continue to offer your clients the best care in the world for years to come.