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Can a Felon Become a Massage Therapist?

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When it comes to getting a job after their release from prison, felons find it challenging. They may think no one will hire them, but there are resources available.

This is the opportunity for felons to begin a new profession. Those with interest or experience with personal care might consider a career in massage therapy.

This blog post will address the issue of whether or not a felon can become a massage therapist.

  • What is a Massage Therapist?
  • What is Required to Become a Massage Therapist?
  • How Much Does a Massage Therapist Earn?
  • An Opportunity for Felons?
  • Recommended Action


What is a Massage Therapist?

A massage therapist treats clients by manipulating the muscles and soft tissues of the body to relieve pain, heal injuries, and improve clients’ well-being.

A massage therapist typically does the following:

  • Creates a soothing environment
  • Provides massage services
  • Makes a client comfortable
  • Keeps track of a client’s progress

There are certain skills important to be successful as a massage therapist:

  • Communication
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Decision-making
  • Compassion
  • Integrity
  • Physical stamina
  • Manual dexterity

What is Required to Become a Massage Therapist?

Education requirements for massage therapists vary by state. Education programs are typically found in colleges and vocational schools. A high school diploma or a GED is usually required for admission into a massage therapy program.

Programs usually include both classroom study and hands-on massage techniques. A massage therapy candidate needs about 500 hours of education in the following course work:

  • Anatomy
  • Kinesiology
  • Physiology
  • Techniques and practice of soft tissue manipulation
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Laws and rules
  • Ethics
  • Business practice
  • Hygiene and health
  • CPR

A massage therapist can be licensed after completing course work and passing the National Certification Exam for Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork (NCETMB).

Forty-five states and the District of Columbia regulate massage therapy. Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Vermont, and Wyoming do not have licensing.

In states with massage therapy regulations, workers must attain a license or certification before practicing massage therapy. State regulations typically require graduation from an approved massage therapy program and passing an exam.

Most massage therapists also need to pass a background check, have liability insurance, and be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

How Much Does a Massage Therapist Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that there were approximately 149,900 practicing massage therapists in the U.S. in 2021. The median annual wage for massage therapists was $46,910 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half of massage therapists earned more and half earned less.

Experience and area of the country will make a difference in income with those massage therapists on the East or West coast earning more than those employed elsewhere.

Employment of massage therapists is projected to grow 20 percent from 2021 to 2031, faster than average. Continued growth for massage services will lead to more opportunities for massage therapists.

An Opportunity for Felons?

A massage therapist is in a position of trust with individuals as he or she has unsupervised physical contact with a client. The existence of certain crimes with a conviction, guilty plea, or no contest may be an un-reviewable denial of certification.

An applicant with a history of a felony of any of the crimes below will be denied certification in all cases:

  • Crimes involving prostitution, sexual or physical abuse, and sexual misconduct
  • Serious crimes of violence against persons including murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, arson, rape, and assault or battery with a dangerous weapon
  • Currently on parole or probation
  • Crimes involving illegal drugs with possession or intent to distribute
  • Felonies involving serious crimes against property such as grand larceny, robbery, burglary, embezzlement, or fraud

An applicant with a history of any of the following convictions may be denied certification except in certain circumstances in which the applicant can demonstrate that certification will not endanger public safety:

  • Misdemeanors involving illegal drugs for controlled substances
  • Crimes involving DUI after a third conviction
  • Misdemeanor crimes against property, such as larceny, burglary, robbery, embezzlement, or fraud
  • Misdemeanors involving assault and battery without a dangerous weapon

An applicant with a conviction of any of the following may be denied certification after consideration of:

  • Seriousness of the crime
  • Whether or not the crime was violent
  • Multiple convictions
  • A crime involving a minor, elderly, or person of diminished capacity
  • Amount of time since the crime was committed
  • Whether the crime relates to patient care
  • If the applicant was truthful in explaining terms and circumstances of the conviction

A criminal history will not necessarily disqualify a massage therapy candidate. An individual who has been disqualified by conviction of prostitution or other sexually related crime during the previous five years or a crime of moral turpitude may be disqualified.

In any case, full disclosure must be made. A candidate should retain legal counsel for a background investigation if there is a criminal offense record.

An applicant must submit a written personal statement explaining in detail all legal issues regarding:

In order to be successful in their pursuit of becoming a massage therapist, it’s essential for felons to be honest about their background. They are already seen as being dishonest, so they must work extra hard to overcome that negative perception.

Having their record expunged can give them the chance needed to begin with a clean record and succeed in becoming a massage therapist. Expunging a criminal record allows anyone to honestly state on an application that he or she has not been convicted of a crime.

Recommended Action

It’s a big challenge, but it might be worth it for a felon wanting to become a massage therapist. Having his or her record expunged and also documenting any training programs or additional education could make the essential difference in a felon succeeding in becoming a massage therapist.

Having support from family, friends, or previous employers can make a huge difference. A felon doesn’t have to be defined by his or her crime. We are not defined by our mistakes but by how we recover from them. He or she can begin again and live an honest life no matter how difficult it might seem.

What do you think about this blog post? Have you or someone you know been in the situation of trying to become a massage therapist with a felony? What was that like for him or her, and how did he or she achieve success? Please tell us in the comments below.

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