As a practicing massage therapist, continuing education (CE) is an ongoing part of your professional life. Most states require massage therapists to be licensed, and to keep one’s license current, a certain amount of CE credits must be completed for the license to be renewed. Similarly, numerous professional organizations dedicated to massage also require a minimum number of CE classes to be taken for therapists to keep their professional certification current. 

Because of these requirements, you will undoubtedly spend quite a bit of time, energy and money on CE over the life of your career, so it’s imperative you carefully consider which classes are best. One of the top ways to insure CE is affordable, worthwhile and convenient is to enroll in home study programs. This form of distance education allows you to earn CE credits without the added expense of travel, the added hassle of retooling one’s schedule to fit around live courses or the added aggravation of crowded classrooms.

As with any service, however, not all home study courses are created equal. Because modern home study programs are one of the newest, least established methods for earning CE credits in massage, there can be a large disparity in the quality of different home study classes available. Some of these courses may not even satisfy state-licensing and/or professional-certification requirements, and even if they do, other courses may be less effective at teaching you what you need to learn. 

To help you choose the best home study courses, this article offers several tips for facilitating your selection. These tips—listed in no set order of importance—are designed to make your choice of courses not only easier, but also more effective.

Tips for choosing home study courses

1. Make sure the home study course is approved as an acceptable CE credit by the licensing body or professional organization you’re involved with. Even if a home study course claims its courses are accredited, be sure to contact the boards and organizations yourself to verify the course will indeed count toward their CE requirements. 

2. Try to get the most CE bang for you buck by finding courses that will satisfy more than one organization’s requirement. For instance, if both your state licensing board and your professional organization require an ethics course, you can find one that’s approved by both, instead of taking two separate courses.

3. Select courses that are taught by the most highly respected instructors. If you’re not sure of the leading experts in the field of study you’re looking to enter, do some research. You can easily find a few good names by asking around at your local massage school, finding instructors that are featured prominently in professional trade journals or by reading through professional massage websites on the Internet. 

4. Choose courses that utilize a variety of educational media. Today’s leading home study programs incorporate numerous technologies and resources to offer students a highly effective and comprehensive education. Because we all have different learning styles, try to find courses that use a variety of media—books, study guides, DVDs, streaming video, animation and Internet modules. This will not only ensure your learning style is accounted for, but it also ensures the instructor has invested in the appropriate educational technology to make the class as effective as possible.

5. Determine how you’ll be tested on the course material. Be sure to investigate what methods will be used for testing your knowledge of the material presented in the course. Depending on the class, you may have to take a written or online exam, send in some form of documentation of your practice, and in some cases, home study course can even require you to demonstrate your new skills in a live classroom. You’ll also need to find out how you’ll get proof (a certificate of completion) you’ve passed the course, so you can get your CE credits. If a program offers vague or incomplete answers to your inquiries on these matters, you might want to rethink taking this particular course.   

Chris Towery is the former associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and is currently a full-time freelance journalist. He has written hundreds of articles for more than 20 different magazines, newspapers and custom publishers. Much of his recent writing has been for the complementary and alternative health-care industry. To contact Towery, e-mail cmreuben@yahoo.com.

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