For the past 20 years working as a massage therapist myself, I often get asked, “How do I become a massage therapist?” The answer often shocks them when I reply that in the UK, that you don’t actually need a formal qualification. You read that right – to become a massage therapist, you don’t actually need to be qualified at all!


 In this blog post, I’m going to break down how you can become a qualified massage therapist in the UK, and the pros and cons of each path.

Formal Level 3 Training To Become A Massage Therapist


Going down the traditional route is the norm in the UK. Many colleges offer an ITEC qualification in Massage Therapy, which usually takes place part time over the course of a year. The massage course covers the practical elements of massage therapy, as well as health and safety and anatomy and physiology. This will cover a basic full body massage routine, from which you can then learn other advanced massage modalities such as Deep Tissue Massage, Lymphatic Drainage Massage or Pregnancy Massage.

The cost is usually around £1500 and you will need to pass final exams, as well as submit a number of case studies.

The upside of doing an ITEC course, is it will allow you to join professional associations, such as the FHT. This does give the therapist the notion of quality control, as members must adhere to the code of conduct. Otherwise many associations actually offer little value for their membership costs which cost around £60-80 per year.

However, many councils offer discounted rates for working from home if you are a member, therefore it’s always worth checking, especially if you live in London. It is also a plus if you are wishing to write receipts for health insurance claims, such as Health Shield who require either ITEC/VTCT or professional membership. This isn’t something all massage therapists offer, but is something to perhaps take into consideration (as an example, at my company, we provide maybe 1-2 invoices per week.)


What do I think of the ITEC course?

I actually took this course in the early 2000s, when it was slightly different. I studied full time for a year, and I have to be honest and say, the classroom element was totally irrelevant to actually working in the real world. Even though my college had a salon open to the public, it was more realistic to working for a spa. I knew this wasn’t the route I wanted to take myself, so I felt the lack of “real life” experience wasn’t equal to the course length.

The anatomy and physiology course is also very comprehensive. In my opinion, too comprehensive for a massage therapist’s needs with many reciting off their knowledge for their exams.

There is also a little opportunity to learn about business and marketing, and what is taught is massively outdated. Handing out business cards at networking events, anyone?

That being said, the course itself is very detailed and a great basis for any aspiring massage therapist. As the course itself is regulated, you have the reassurance that it is of a high quality.


Online Training Courses For Massage Therapists


Believe it or not, in the UK there is nothing stopping you taking an online course in massage therapy. By lunchtime you can start up your own massage business!

I’m not going to write too much about it as, quite frankly, I do not agree with this route into massage therapy at all.

However, many insurance companies will provide you with Professional Indemnity Insurance based on online learning. Again, not a legal requirement but highly recommended. I would suggest if you do choose an online massage therapy course, at least choose one which offers tutor support and feedback.

I will say, I’m not against online learning as a rule, but I do believe beginner hands-on massage courses need to be taught in person.


Private Colleges & Academies


Academies such as The National Massage Academy and other private trainers can be a fantastic way to enter the wellness industry. They can offer intensive training over a few days which will propel you into your career as a massage therapist!

Our founder, Sophie, has 20 years hands-on experience, working in both Cambridge and London, both in clinic settings, carrying out corporate contracts, providing home and hotel visits, as well as growing her current studio into a thriving business with multiple staff. Always having had her eye on what works within the wellness industry, she is often taking inspiration from elsewhere – she knows what works and share her knowledge with her students!

If you are looking at other training providers, perhaps take a look at their tutors – are they running successful businesses themselves, and how long have they been in the industry? What kind of qualifications to they hold (you may be trained by someone who has only gained a quick online qualification themsleves!)

Whichever route you choose to take, we would always suggest gaining insurance and taking time to understand health and safety issues around massage therapy. 

We would love to have you train with us, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.