How to become a Massage Therapist!

Hello readers and aspiring therapists!

So over the past couple of years, I have gotten messages and questions regarding the process of becoming a Registered Massage Therapist.

Sharing is caring. So let me give you all the ins and outs on how to become a professional massage therapist!

massage therapy _DSC3150.jpeg
Brian and Leslie poses for the College photographer. (Who I ended up massaging).

Now, before I start, I just want to say that there are many different regulations and sometimes NO regulations depending on where you are from so all the lovely things I write in this post will be strictly regarding the process that I went through in Toronto, Canada!

We are a registered health profession under the CMTO,  College of Massage Therapists of Ontario. (We also have a lil’ something called the RMTAO as well – which stands for Registered Massage Therapists Association of Ontario).

For me, it all started in the weight room. I was a hyper-ass kid. I would always run everywhere and be constantly finding ways to play sports or finding an outlet to let out all of my energy.  After trying to become a young Bruce Lee in my junior years, my interest with the physical body and biology began to sprout. Also I don’t think I could have done an office job to save my life.

I definitely had his hair during my highschool years. Oh yeah.

So hot right out of highschool, I was one of the few kids to head right to the college route instead of university – and this was because I wanted to work right away, this could help me get my permanent residency (post graduate work permit program), and I wanted to learn how to massage real good! The admission requirements for the Centennial College massage therapy program can be found here.

Expecting nothing but learning cool techniques and how to kick ass (therapeutically, of course) I went head first into the program. But it was not what I had expected at all. (Although I totally could have expected some of it if I had chosen to look at the program outline)

The program was filled with classes such as
– clinical and gross anatomy
– biomechanics & assessment
– therapeutic boundaries and legislation regarding massage
– stress management & nutrition
– physiology and pathophysiology
– neuroanatomy
– massage therapy practice
– business and research
– student clinic and outreach experience (sports massage, prenatal, seniors home, infant massage, and more)
– other electives (college English, mindfulness, et cetera)

I almost forgot that hydrotherapy was one of them – what a program!  (And yes, that is me)

We had around 50 students (surprisingly 1:1 male to female ratio as well) and by the time 3rd year came by, we had around 28~ people if my memory serves me right. So it definitely wasn’t a walk in the park either. Between memorizing all the bones, ligaments, tendons, joint capsules, muscles, and all the other lovely little things in the body, we were doing plenty of assignment, text readings, and group projects to keep us well occupied.

The content does get more challenging as you progress from the first year to the third but if you are used to university level education or were prepared to take university/college level courses at your high school, it honestly shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. One of the harder parts was to keep your cool and keeping your nerves come when it came to exam seasons and you had to perform techniques or find a specific structure in front of the whole class. The morning classes can seem quite early as well so if you live far away (like I did, Yonge and Steeles all the way to Morningside and Ellesmere) you may want to consider living in a close by apartment or student housing. Taking 3 different bus daily for 3 years for 3 hours everyday was probably one of the most tedious, monotonous, time consuming task for me. Reading and reviewing notes on a cold, hot, shaky, noisy bus is not as easy as one may think.

My second home from 2011 to 2014. This was one of the 3 buses I took every weekday for 3 years. (I will definitely be telling my grandkids, “You know when I was your age…”)

So after passing all your classes and doing midterms and final exams, at the end of your 3rd year, you get an exit exam. What this essentially does is that it prepares you to pass the provincial licensing exam in order to become a Registered Massage Therapist in Ontario. That licensing exam consists of an demonstration examination as well as a multiple choice test. We call it the OSCE (Objectively Structured Clinical Examination) and MCQ (Multiple Choice Questionnaire). You get to take one of these babies when you earn your advanced diploma in massage therapy from an Ontario college (private or public). If you fail 3 times, I believe you do have to start all over again. If you do fail the first time or the second time, Centennial had a remedial program to help you assess where you went wrong so you can pass successfully the next time. I am super glad to say that I did pass my examinations the first time. Trying to help others relax professionally is surprisingly a very stressful process haha.

So there you have it! Once you pass all the rigorous trials of becoming a massage therapist, you are more or less free to work wherever and whenever on your own. It is a challenging, stimulating, interesting, and most of all – very rewarding job. I personally think that everyone should give a massage in their lifetime. It will surprise you how much it will teach you about patience, being attentive, being non-judgemental, being focused , and much more.

If you have any questions or comments, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Until next time,

Brian Donghui Rim, RMT



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