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Massage Therapy

We are the change..

A summary of the Therapy Industry

An Introduction to the Therapy Industry

If you are new to the therapy industry in the UK you may very well be overwhelemed with all of the different course providers, professional memberships and when you are new to the industry it is hard to know who to trust. We would like to give you a general introduction so that you can make an informed decision about your first step on the therapy ladder

Awarding Organisations

Awarding Organisations (AO's)

An awarding organisation designs, develops, delivers and awards qualifications, including in some cases apprenticeship end-point assessments (EPAs). Qualifications test knowledge, skills and understanding of a subject and are awarded to learners who demonstrate the required level of attainment.

Awarding organisations offer qualifications to meet the need of their customers: schools, colleges and training providers that teach the courses that lead to their qualifications. Awarding organisations put in place the exams, tests and other assessments that students take to achieve their qualifications. A good awarding organisation will combine expertise in assessment with effective operational delivery.

Examples of AO's

Examples of Awarding Organisations in Therapy are:

  • Active IQ

  • VTCT

  • YMCA

Is Sports Massage Education an AO?

No, We are an Independent Training Provider

Training Providers

Training providers are split into two main areas - accredited and unaccredited

Accredited Training Providers

An accredited course delivered by a business, school or college (Centre) will be attached to an Awarding Body/Organisation. An Awarding Body will have been approved by OFQUAL to accredit courses. OFQUAL will ensure Awarding Bodies develop courses which meet the required training and assessment standards specified for the level of learning taking place. For example, a Level 1 (GCSE) may only require candidates to become aware of knowledge while Level 8 (Doctorate) would expect a candidate to write a thesis on the topic.

The Awarding Body who have developed the course will authorise Centres to deliver their courses and will ensure their Centres are delivering the courses to required assessment standards as well as the required knowledge and techniques. For example, an Awarding Body will ensure Resuscitation taught at Level 3 is assessed in the correct format for Level 3 as well as ensuring their courses are up to day with latest Resuscitation Council Guidance.

The Centres will have trainers who deliver the courses on their behalf and the Centres will ensure the trainers are delivering the courses to assessment standards and to the required knowledge and techniques required by the Awarding Body. The failure of a Centre to ensure the standards of their trainers, can lead to them loosing Centre registration.

Independent Training Providers

There is no requirement for external regulation of independent courses or qualifications. A qualification can be developed to meet the needs of a business/industry or student, but it will not be checked by an Awarding Body.

A company, school or college (Like Sports Massage Education) can develop a course for its trainers to deliver or it could deliver the resources of an Accredited qualification, but not issue an accredited certificate. We do the latter, we use the Qualification framework (As an accredited training provider would) and develop our reqources and assessments around the framework to make sure that all learners achieve the minimum expected standard.

An Independent course does not mean a lower standard of delivery, learning or qualification when delivered by a reputable company. A reputable company will maintain the standards the same as a regulated company. Sports Massage Education runs all of it's teaching and assessing as if it were a regulated training provider (We delivered accredited qualifications for over 10 years). We have Internal & External Verification of assessment decisions and observations of teaching

Benefits of being an Independent Training Provider

Flexible: Regulated qualifications have set content and delivery times which may not suit the learners or the Industry. Independent courses can be adapted to the specifics learning needs of the individuals on the course and can quickly change content and assessments to best suit the needs of the industry so that graduates will always be up to date.

Learner engagement: As the qualification is flexible to the learning needs of the industry, students can be more engaged as they can see how it relates immediately to their job. When students undertake rigid Accredited courses with set assessments, there may be questions or content that is quickly out of date. This may lead to trainers having to teach sections of the course because it is 'on the exam' rather than it being something that is relevant to their evolving job role.

Investment: Independent qualifications do not come with accredited qualifications which save money on the course. This money can be reinvested into evolving the course content and training the team to ensure the highest standards of delivery.

High standards and more options: When using a reputable company, you get the same level of training as an accredited training provider which can be adapted to your individual needs

What kind of training provider is Sports Massage Education?

We are an Independent Training Provider

Training Providers
Names of Qualifications
Names of Qualifiations

Names of Qualifications

This can be a really confusing area! There are so many course names - how do you know which one is right for you?

Accredited courses

Accredited courses have to be titled a certain way:

(a) the name of the awarding organisation,

(b) the level of the qualification,

(c) the type of qualification (where the qualification has a type)

I.e. (a) Active IQ (b) Level 3 Diploma in (c) Sports Massage Therapy

Accredited courses are allowed to use the following terms: 

  • ‘award’ to indicate a small-sized qualification

  • ‘certificate’ to indicate a medium-sized qualification

  • ‘diploma’ to indicate a large-sized qualification

Independent Courses

Independent Courses are not allowed to pass themselves off as an accredited course and must do what they can to ensure that learners are aware that it is an independent course. They will not contain an awarding organisation name and should not use the terms award, certificate or Diploma

Our course is a Level 3 (because we meet the Level 3 National Occupational Standards) in Sports Massage Therapy. It does not include an awarding organisation name or a qualification title of awrd, certificate or Diploma. We want to make it clear that our course meets the Level 3 National Occupational Standards and is in Sports Massage Therapy.

What course title is the Sports Massage Education course?

Level 3 in Sports Massage Therapy

Professional Associations

Professional Associations (PA's)

You do not need to be a member of a professional association but it definitely helps if you are new to the industry or need advice if you work on your own. They should be able to provide you support and advice with your career, training and any day to day issues you may face when working in a clinic environment. 

Examples of Professional Associations

Number one thing to look out for (In our opinion!)

Is the professional membership linked to a training company?

Why is that a potential issue?

Professional Memberships that also run courses have limited incentive to change or progress. The learners that attend their courses can join their membership. Then when the learners look for Continued Professional Development (CPD) the membership organisation can influence the decision of the learner by not approving other training providers for CPD and direct them to their own CPD instead. This creates a circular loop where a therapist is constantly learning from the same provider. This is great if the provider is up dating their courses regularaly but not so good if they're not. In our opinion - the professional membership you choose should be independent.

Can you join a professional association after completing the Sports Massage Education course?

Yes, you can join as a member of the Sports Therapy Association

RQF/NOS and Levels

RQF/NOS and Levels- What do they all mean?

RQF is the Regulated Qualifications Framework

Qualification frameworks are designed to help you make informed decisions about the qualifications you've achieved and the qualifications you may need for the future.

The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) is in use in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The intention of the RQF framework is to improve consistency around how awarding organisations describe the size and challenge, or demand, of the qualifications they offer.

More information about levels here

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The table above shows how the qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (RQF) relate to Europe (EQF), Scotland (SCQF) and Wales (CQFW)

NOS - National Occupational Standards

National Occupational Standards (NOS) are statements of the standards of performance individuals must achieve when carrying out functions in the workplace, together with specifications of the underpinning knowledge and understanding. The Sports Massage Education Level 3 course meets all of the criteria set out in the National Occupational Standards for Sports Massage at Level 3

More information about Sports Massage NOS here

Is the Sports Massage Education course on the RQF?

No, RQF listed qualification are offered by training providers working through an Awarding Organisation

Does the Sports Massage Education course meet the NOS?

Yes, We meet all of the standards at Level 3 

Resources & Evidence

Resources and Evidence

This is one of the most important questions you need to ask your training provider


Manual: If your provider supplies you with a manual - this is a great resource. However, manuals may have been printed in a batch years ago and your training provider is using the same materials over a long period of time. What to ask - when did you update your course manual?

Online: More and more training providers are providing excellent online resources. This is a good sign as they can be updated really quickly as new evidence emerges.

Human: The key part of any course is your course tutor. You can have exactly the same syllabus taught at two different training providers and the experience and knowledge of the course tutor will make all the difference. Ask your training provider about their qualifications, their experience in teaching and their experience as a therapist. Ask about the last course that they went on, whether they are a member of a professional association and if they attend regular conferences


This is one of the most contentious issue over the last 10 years in therapy. There has been a big shift towards evidence based practice and if, as an industry, we are to be taken seriously by the Allied Health Professionals we have to embrace the evidence behind what manual therapy does. If your training provider talks about breaking down scar tissue, adhesions, postural deviations then these are red flags 🚩. They are outdated concepts that plague our education.


Continued Professional Development (CPD)

CPD is SO important - if you haven't completed any update training then you can quickly lose touch with what is current. If you are a member of a professional association then you have to complete a certain number of hours each year - they will check it and if you don't meet the requirement then your membership will be revoked (One of the benefits to your clients of being in a professional membership).


Here are a few conferences and podcasts that we recommend.



The changing face of qualifications - who can you trust?



Examples of Therapy Insurers

Can I get Insured after completing the Sports Massage Education Course?

Yes, You can get insured through Balens (You have to be a member of the Sports Therapy Association to gain your Insurance)



Invest in Your Future

We are fiercely independent. For the reasons mentioned above - we are proud to offer the course that we do to those that are new to the therapy industry.

If you need an accredited qualification for funding purposes or because you need to progress to a specific course then, unfortunately, we are not the training provider for you.


If you want to be taught by passionate & experienced people with assessments and content that are constantly up-dated so you are at the forefront of the industry then please get in touch.


Sports Injury
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