Massage Therapy is a popular career choice that focuses on both treatment for specific ailments and overall health and wellness. An education and training in Massage Therapy is typically found as a postsecondary certificate program and as an Associate Degree program.
What do Massage Therapists do?
Massage therapists treat clients by using touch to manipulate the muscles and other soft tissues of the body. Yet, massage therapy is much more than a Swedish or Shiatsu massage when on vacation. Massage therapists work in a wide variety of settings including:
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that in the next decade, job opportunities for massage therapists are expected to increase 22%.
Increased awareness of the health benefits of massage therapy has created rapid growth for professional opportunities in this field. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that in the next decade, job opportunities for massage therapists are expected to increase 22%. This is much faster than average when compared to the average US job growth rate of 7%.
Pay for Massage Therapists
According to the BLS, the median annual wage for massage therapists is $42,000. The median annual wages for massage therapists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:
Offices of chiropractors
Offices of all other health practitioners
Personal care services
The highest 10% of wages for massage therapists is over $80,000. Most massage therapists also earn a considerable amount of tips, which may not be factored into average wages for this occupation.
Education and Training for Massage Therapy
Massage therapists typically complete a postsecondary education program of 500 or more hours of study and experience. Programs include both classroom study and hands-on practice of massage techniques. Programs cover subjects such as anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, pathology, business management, and ethics. Students may also choose to specialize in a particular area treatment. Massage Therapy can span a variety of specialties including:
Manual Lymph Drainage Therapy (MLD)
A degree or certification in Massage Therapy is also a popular benchmark and steppingstone for those wishing to advance their education in related fields such as Physical Therapy or Occupational Therapy.
Most states regulate massage therapy and require massage therapists to have a license or certification. Currently 45 states (and the District of Columbia) have regulations concerning massage therapy. Regulations at the local levels may also apply.
Regulations typically require graduation from an approved massage therapy program and passing an exam. The most popular exam process is the Massage and Bodywork Licensing Examination (MBLEx) licensure exam, offered by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards.
Massage therapists may also need to pass a background check, have liability insurance, and be certified in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Continuing education credits to periodically renew licensure is also common.
Ready to Become a Massage Therapist?
Many massage therapists do not work a typical 9-5 job. Because therapists work by appointment in most cases, their schedules and the number of hours worked each week can vary considerably. Many massage therapists choose to work part time while others may choose to work a busier schedule facilitated by seasonal, vacation, and tourist demand.
Successful massage therapists benefit from the following skills and attributes:
Massage therapists need to listen and hear clients concerns and their goals of massage therapy treatments. Kindness and empathy are also immensely helpful in establishing trust and giving clients a positive experience, both for repeat customers and to expand the client base.
Massage therapists often have access to sensitive client details such as medical histories. Therefore, they must be trustworthy and professional to protect the privacy of their clients.
Stamina, strength, and dexterity
Massage therapists must be strong (especially in their hands and arms) when administering treatments as well as having the stamina for long appointment sessions and multiple appointments in a row.
Critical thinking skills
Massage therapists must evaluate each client’s goals and recommend the best treatment on the basis of that person’s needs. Must also be able to trouble shoot issues as they arise using knowledge, training, and external resources.
Must use appointment times wisely to help accomplish goals of each session. Must be able to use time efficiently when taking care of business-oriented tasks such as scheduling, payments, etc.
Ready to earn your certificate or degree in Massage Therapy?
Check out these great programs available at our partner schools!
Arizona School of Integrative Studies Certificate in Massage Therapy
Offers a Certificate Program in Massage Therapy. ASIS is a private vocational school with 4 locations in Arizona. Certificate programs run 7 months to 1.5 years. ASIS is a GI Bill approved school. Students should check with the school to ensure their preferred program is covered by the GI Bill. Students at ASIS can enroll in a certificate program which will earn them their Arizona License and prepare them to sit the MBLEx. For more info, please go here.
Find GI Bill®-approved Massage Therapy programs for Military and Veterans
Born in SoCal yet raised Tampa, Florida - Leah earned her undergraduate BA in Liberal Studies from the University of Central Florida. Leah earned her MA in the MALAS at San Diego State University, while also completing a graduate teaching certificate in English for Secondary Education. An avid traveler, she has visited more than 60 countries. With the birth of her son Spencer in 2012, Leah embarked on her biggest adventure (yet) as parent and Coast Guard wife.