Choosing CEUs: Factors to Consider

The makings of a successful massage therapist depend heavily on the skills you possess. Fortunately, continuing education plays a large part in the career of an active bodyworker, as gaining continuing education units (CEUs) is typically required to maintain your license or certification to practice, whether through a state board or professional massage organization. And by staying current with CEUs, you’re more likely to not only maintain, but also improve your massage skills.

The method you choose to gain CEUs may depend on your own personal learning style, as well as your schedule and goals. Perhaps you already know that you learn best in person or that you prefer distance learning to fit CEUs into a busy agenda. Experience often is the best way to figure out what works well for you, and the vast array of CEU providers should ensure that there’s a class out there to suit nearly every massage therapist’s needs.

“There is no one type of education that matches every possible learning style,” Barb Richmond, vice president of communications at The Upledger Institute, told MASSAGE Magazine. “As a practitioner in search of education, you have to consider your own learning style and the type of education provided by any given source.”

 One of the first aspects to take into consideration is whether the CEU provider is approved by your state licensing board or massage organization, so that the continuing education course you take will count toward keeping your credential current.

 The National Certification Board for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCBTMB) maintains a database of approved CEU providers (, and many state massage boards maintain lists as well.

Aside from being an approved provider, the type of continuing education you choose may be based on several factors, such as the complexity of the topic you intend to study, the modality itself, the amount of hands-on experience you possess as a practicing touch therapist, the local availability of high-quality continuing massage education, and whether you are looking to gain certification in a specific technique. Once you have put some thought into these issues, it’s then time to factor in your learning style.

 “If somebody is a practitioner who has a good knowledge base [and] they’ve done some additional study, they can oftentimes learn very effectively the same techniques they’d learn in a workshop by video or DVD demonstration,” orthopedic-massage expert and workshop presenter Whitney Lowe told MASSAGE Magazine.

 However, if the topic of the course is completely new to the massage therapist and hands-on heavy, experts advise it may be best to go the route of on-site education.

“Learning a new hands-on skill is by definition an experiential process. You have the ability to place your hands and feel,” Richmond told MASSAGE Magazine. “You need the chance to make mistakes and find your comfort level with the techniques in a safe setting with a skilled professional offering you guidance, direction and positive reinforcement.”

 Other subjects seem to lend themselves perfectly to distance education, and massage schools and other CEU providers are increasingly offering such classes online.

 “Subjects that are most compatible are academic ones that require memorization, such as pathology, medical terminology and anatomy,” oncology-massage expert and workshop presenter Gayle MacDonald told MASSAGE Magazine.

The individual circumstances of the massage therapist seeking CEUs may also be a deciding factor in the type of education received. For instance, a touch therapist who is disabled may benefit from the opportunity to earn CEUs from the comfort of his or her home. In addition, those bodyworkers who live in rural areas may never get the chance to attend continuing-education courses locally, so online classes could be crucial.

Take the time to consider all aspects of continuing education before you enroll in your CEU courses. In the vast field of massage, there should be plenty of classes to suit your location, budget and learning style.